Cutting Down on Social Media Can Bring Mental Health Benefits

With the rise of social media, approximately 302.35 million individuals nationwide are using social media as of 2023.

We live in a society where we can get groceries delivered to our front porch with a click of a button and contact our best friends worldwide with the comfort of our fingers.

Despite the beneficial aspects of social media, these platforms can easily take away hours of one's day or even lead to an addiction. To limit one's use of social media, a two-week experiment was conducted among college students.

The two-week study involving 230 college students showed that those who used social media for only half an hour each day, with the help of automatic reminders, had much lower levels of depression, anxiety, and loneliness.

In particular, they also indicated that the effect was more favorable, showing a more upbeat attitude toward life. Even people who sometimes went above the limit saw psychological benefits.

"It surprised me to find that participants' well-being did not only improve in one dimension but in all of them. I was excited to learn that such a simple intervention of sending a daily reminder can motivate people to change their behavior and improve their social media habits," says lead author Ella Faulhaber.

The study's findings showed that individuals who occasionally exceeded the allotted 30-minute limit nonetheless reaped the psychological advantages of limiting their social media use.

Faulhaber continues that the lesson is that attempting, rather than being flawless, makes a difference. She believes the key ingredients — more so than the 30-minute benchmark — are self-control and paying attention.

According to co-author Douglas A. Gentile, their findings are consistent with prior kinesiology and health-related studies.

"Knowing how much time we spend on activities each day and making something countable makes it easier for people to change their behaviors," says Gentile.

He continues that many research participants mentioned how difficult the first few days of cutting back were. However, one participant claimed that after the initial push, they felt more productive and connected with their life. Others reported improved sleep or more face-to-face time with friends and family.

"When a perceived freedom is taken away, we start resisting," states Gentile.

He continues by saying that removing social media would also mean losing some of its advantages, such as the ability to interact with loved ones. According to the experts, paying attention to when and how we utilize these platforms is crucial.

Gentile concludes: "We live in an age of anxiety. Lots of indicators show that anxiety, depression, and loneliness are all getting worse, and that can make us feel helpless. But there are things we can do to manage our mental health and well-being."

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