As you prepare to take a holiday break, giving yourself the gift of emotional well-being is easier than you think. A recent study out of the University of Copenhagen has found that taking a break from Facebook is good for you — like, really good for you. Simply logging off for up to a week can help banish those unpleasant feelings of envy, jealousy, and angst that our social media-saturated culture can induce. Participants in the study, who were formerly heavy Facebook users, noted an overall improvement in life satisfaction, and a reduction of negative emotions after they decreased the amount of time spent scrolling through their News Feed. It seems those awesome vacation photos and career updates your friends are posting really can be quite damaging, no matter how much we like them — or "like" them, as the case may be.
While past research has focussed primarily on the negative effects of heightened Facebook use, this latest study, published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, centers on the benefits that a brief break from Facebook can have. The study, conducted in Denmark in late 2015, recruited 1,095 participants online, 86 percent of whom were women. The participants were, on average, 34 years of age, had about 350 Facebook friends, and spent over an hour on the social networking site each day.
The participants were first asked to fill out a brief questionnaire about life satisfaction; then, they were assigned to one of two groups: Either to cease using Facebook over the course of the next week, or to continue engaging with the site as usual. Once the week was up, another similar questionnaire was administered to gauge results.
Those who took a break from Facebook "reported significantly higher levels of life satisfaction and a significantly improved emotional life," wrote Morten Tromholt, the study's author. "The gain proved to be greatest for heavy Facebook users, users who passively use Facebook, and users who tend to envy others on Facebook."
It seems, though, that you don't have to quit Facebook all together to see positive results; merely changing behavior and how you engage with the community on the site can help. "To make things clear, if one is a heavy Facebook user, one should use Facebook less to increase one's well-being," Tomholt wrote. "And if one tends to feel envy when on Facebook, one should avoid browsing the sections (or specific friends) on Facebook causing this envy. And if one uses Facebook passively, one should reduce this kind of behavior. " Actively engaging with your friends can actually lead to some positive emotions, so go ahead and comment on that photo, or challenge someone to a game of Pac-Man on Messenger!
Of course, if these findings do not ring true for your personal lifestyle and Facebook use, then of course take the results with a grain of salt. The questionnaires were subjective, and the self-reported results could have been influenced by the participants already knowing whether they were in the "Treatment" or the "Control" group. If you are satisfied with your current amount of Facebook use, you do you! Quitting any social media can be difficult; in fact, 13 percent of study participants in the treatment group reported sneaking a peak over the course of their Facebook detox week.
But, I mean, hey. If happiness means not clicking on an app for seven days, I'm so in!