Study shows deactivating Facebook is good for you
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.
People are not abandoning Facebook, according to the company’s fourth-quarter earnings. 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 benefits of using the platform are clear: it’s 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.
But 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 television 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.
Researchers also 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.”
Participants said Facebook improves their lives in clear and diverse ways, the researchers found, from entertainment, to organizing philanthropy and activism, to providing social bonds for people who would otherwise feel isolated. “Any discussion of social media’s downsides should not obscure the basic fact that it fulfills deep and widespread needs,” the researchers said.
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. And while people are less informed about the news when they are away from Facebook, it also cooled partisan thinking.
In a statement released to The Washington Post Thursday, Facebook said its teams are focused on fostering meaningful connections on the platform and have provided tools for users to better control their experience. “This is one study of many on this topic and it should be considered that way,” the company said, repeating the study’s own findings that users find clear benefits from the platform and that Facebook helps people stay informed.
People who temporarily deactivate Facebook get a uptick in life satisfaction, a study shows.