Social Networks And Mental Health

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have examined the browsing habits of 143 undergraduate students aged 18 to 22, working in two distinct phases: one in the spring, the other a few months later, in autumn.

Their point of departure: a preliminary study consisting in following for a week the use of social networks by the participants, focusing on three platforms: Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. Then they assessed their mental health through a selection of seven factors: social support, fear of missing something , loneliness, self-acceptance, self-esteem, anxiety and depression.

The students were then separated into two groups for the main three-week experiment: the first had to keep their habits unchanged, the second limit their presence on the networks to 10 minutes daily per site. This period ended with a new evaluation of their psychological well-being.

According to the researchers, participants who reduced their use to half an hour a day found a “significant improvement in their well-being”, with a decrease in loneliness and depression. The level of anxiety and FOMO decreased in both groups, perhaps associated with increased attention to their emotions during the experimental phase.

“It’s quite ironic that a lesser use of networks leads to feeling less alone,” said lead investigator Melissa Hunt at the ScienceDaily news site. “The existing literature on the subject suggests that these platforms lead to a very important phenomenon of social comparison: the constant exposure to the lives of others invites us to think that it is systematically more attractive or fulfilling than ours, especially on Instagram . ”

“The constant exposure to the lives of others invites us to think that it is consistently more attractive or fulfilling than ours, especially on Instagram.”

Some reservations to note about the protocol: the participants only used their iPhone, whose technology provided objective data on their use. The study was also limited to Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat, and therefore provides no information on other platforms . Finally, the researchers can not say whether these results would be identical for another age group.

Said that, it is more than interesting to think about the right way to restrict oneself in the network, while accepting its low chances of getting rid of it completely. Several studies have shown that excessive presence on Facebook could worsen depression and loneliness; another, published in 2014, highlighted the propensity of these platforms to provoke social comparison, often linked to a decline in self-esteem.

The conclusion: a short break can only do you good. Notifications about the latest wedding, dog ear filters, sarcastic tweets and food porn pictures are not going to disappear during your absence!

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