Facebook breaks can increase happiness
The Columbus Dispatch 1 Feb 2019 By Hamza Shaban The Washington Post
Around the world, more than 2.3 billion people are on Facebook, actively communicating and posting and consuming on the platform, a figure that continues to grow and drive record profits, despite a barrage of privacy scandals and heightened scrutiny from U.S. lawmakers.
Masses of people are not abandoning Facebook, according to the company’s fourth quarter earnings, released on Wednesday. In fact, the company has reversed a troubling trend in its most important market: Facebook added users in North America for the first time all year.
For Facebook fans, the platform offers a way to stay connected with friends, to consume news and entertainment, and, for businesses, to find potential customers and audiences.
In recent years, however, researchers and consumer advocates have scrutinized what the downsides of all that growth and connectivity could mean for society and individual health and well-being.
In the latest study measuring the effects of social media on a person’s life, researchers at New York University and Stanford University found that deactivating Facebook for just four weeks could alter people’s behavior and state of mind.
The study found that temporarily quitting Facebook led people to spend more time offline, watching TV and socializing with family and friends; reduced their knowledge of current events and polarization of policy views; and provoked a small but significant improvement in people’s self-reported happiness and satisfaction with their lives.
What’s more, the researchers found that the deactivation freed up an hour per day for the average person. And the people who took a break from Facebook continued to use the platform less often, even after the experiment ended.
“Our study offers the largest scale experimental evidence available to date on the way Facebook affects a range of individual and social welfare measures,” the researchers wrote. The researchers concluded the experiment shows the downsides of using Facebook, even as the same results “leave little doubt that Facebook produces large benefits for its users.”
But the study found that the psychological improvements of abstaining from Facebook suggests that people may be using the social network more than they should.
The 2,844 Facebook users involved in the study was not a fully representative sample, the study conceded. Participants were “relatively young, welleducated, and left-leaning compared to the average Facebook user.”