By now, you’ve probably heard all sorts of warnings and statistics about the negative effects social media can have on you—but that doesn’t mean you’re doomed to feel that way forever. Quitting Facebook for a month could improve mental health, according to a study conducted by researchers at Stamford and NYU.
This study has been considered “one of the most rigorous” to ever study the effects of quitting social media, according to the Guardian. This is due in part to the number of participants: a whopping 2,844 Facebook users. The researchers randomly selected half of them to log off for a month, while the other half continued using the site normally.
And this study took a more comprehensive approach to getting results. The researchers didn’t just ask the participants to sum up how the lack of Facebook made them feel after the month was over. They had the participants report on their well-being throughout the month. The researchers also monitored the accounts of the abstainers, to make sure that they didn’t cheat and log in. (Only about 1 percent did.)
Sure enough, the participants who quit Facebook reported, on average, a “small bump” in their daily well-being. “Deactivation caused small but significant improvements in well-being, and in particular on self-reported happiness, life satisfaction, depression, and anxiety,” the study authors concluded.
The researchers also conducted a final, comprehensive assessment at the end of the study. In addition to the mood boosts, there were some other benefits as well. Those who quit Facebook experienced an average of an hour of additional leisure time a day. And while the participants who quit felt less informed about the news—a change that definitely has both pros and cons—they also felt less politically polarized. (Did you know quitting social media can make you more confident?)
And, interestingly, the people who quit Facebook actually didn’t replace it with increased use of other social media, like Twitter or SnapChat. Some of the participants who quit Facebook even chose to continue to stay off after the study was over.
Before you find Facebook’s Deactivate button, though, researchers did find a flip side as well. Though overall positive, the effects of cutting out Facebook were not as dramatically positive as some studies have touted in the past. And some participants of the study actually had a better appreciation for the parts of Facebook that they liked, such as the ability to receive news and information updates all in one place. The study authors did acknowledge that “there are, clearly, benefits to Facebook and social media at large…[as] an important means for people to stay connected to friends and family,” the Guardian reported.
Still, if looking at others’ highlight-reel posts brings you down, you might want to consider cutting back. “Facebook-related envy is a widespread feeling among Facebook users because they are presented with loads of social information that invites social comparison,” writes study author Morten Tromholt of the University of Copenhagen.
Even small tweaks could give you a healthier relationship with your social media feed. “It might not be necessary to quit Facebook for good to increase one’s well-being—instead an adjustment of one’s behaviour on Facebook could potentially cause a change,” writes Tromholt. Avoid certain friends’ posts if you tend to get jealous, or cut down on the time you spend on Facebook every day, he suggests.
Next, read about what happened when one woman deleted her social media apps for three weeks.