It’s no secret that excessive use of social media can harm one’s mental health. According to new research, even a quick vacation from TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter can help with melancholy and anxiety symptoms.
According to British researchers, staying off social media for a week gave some study participants around nine hours of extra time, which boosted their well-being.
“If you’re feeling like you’re using too much social media and it’s affecting your mental health,” study author Jeff Lambert, an assistant professor of health psychology at the University of Bath, said, “then taking a break might be worth a try and provide you at least some short-term advantages.”
According to Lambert and US News, these findings could have ramifications for how people manage their mental health, providing another alternative for people to pursue. “However, further research is needed to look at long-term consequences and whether it’s appropriate in a therapeutic setting,” he added.
The researchers chose 154 individuals aged between 18-72 who used social media every day at random for the study and told them to cease using it for a week or keep using it as usual. The participants in the survey averaged eight hours per week on social media.
The study found that people who took a vacation from social media experienced significant gains in well-being, with a significant decline in despair and anxiety compared to those who continued using it.
Lambert stated that individuals who took the week-long vacation spent 21 minutes on social media, compared to nearly seven hours for those who didn’t.
The research was recently published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking.
According to Dr. Scott Krakower, a psychiatrist at Zucker Hillside Hospital in New York City, social media can cause sadness and anxiety in some people when they compare themselves to others on these platforms.
“They may feel insufficient because they don’t look like the folks they’re talking with,” he explained. “You know nothing about them, but you know a lot of information about them, and you may feel like you’re being left out because of some of the things that other person does, which inspires feelings of inadequacy and reduces self-esteem.”
Krakower does not believe that avoiding social media is the ideal option for people experiencing unpleasant emotions. It’s preferable, he argues, to devise a strategy for managing social media usage, which could include visiting these sites less frequently or taking regular short breaks.
“I think you should take a small break, even if it’s just a day or two, and see how you do without it,” Krakower said.
“I don’t think you have to be fully off until you feel completely hooked to it,” Krakower said, “but you need to monitor it.”
Another expert stated that avoiding social media is not the solution, but rather knowing how to use these platforms healthily.
“While abstinence may promote happiness, it may not be realistic, practicable, or even beneficial in the long run,” said Melissa Hunt, associate director of clinical training in the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Psychology.
“Our ultimate goal with these platforms should be damage reduction, not abstention,” she said. “For most people under the age of 30, these platforms have become an integral part of their everyday lives. The true problem is to teach individuals how to use platforms with awareness and adaptability.”