Quitting Facebook or Twitter won’t make you any happier, according to a new study that tracked people who abstained from social media for as long as 28 days
- Researchers at University of Kansas tracked 130 test subjects over a month
- The subjects abstained from social media for 7, 14, 21, and 28 days
- At the end of the day subjects filled out a questionnaire about their feelings
- Those who abstained weren’t any happier or less lonely than social media users
The idea that social media makes people miserable is so commonplace that it almost goes without saying.
A recent study from the University of Kansas suggests there may be cause to rethink the common wisdom on social media use.
A team of researchers from UK’s Department of Communication Studies, led by professor Jeffrey Hall, followed five different groups of social media users over the course of a month to try and measure the effect social media was having on their lives.
Researchers at University of Kansas examined the effects of abstaining from social media for 7, 14, 21, and 28 days
According to a summary of the findings from The British Psychological Society, they divided their test subjects into one group that used social media normally, and four others that abstained for 7, 14, 21, and 28 days.
Specifically, the users were asked to go without Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter.
After filtering out subjects who cheated during their abstention periods, the researchers were left with 130 subjects across the five different groups.
At the end of each day, the subjects filled out short surveys about the activities they’d done that day and did a self-assessment on their sense of loneliness, well-being, and overall quality of life.
After analyzing all of the participant’s answers, researchers determined the differences between those who used social media and those who abstained was ‘indistinguishable.’
The researchers asked test subjects to specifically avoid Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat
Similarly, the length of the abstention period didn’t appear to have any effect on the test subject’s self-assessment.
Earlier this year, a study from University of Oxford looked reached a similar conclusion based on a much larger sample size of social media users, specifically 12,000 teenagers.
‘99.75 per cent of a young person’s life satisfaction for a given year has nothing to do with how they use social media,’ Oxford’s Amy Orben said of the study.
When a small number of users did experience negative effects from social media use, researchers found that it had more to do with the specific kinds of behavior and not social media use in general.
The researchers found there was no difference in happiness or general feeling of loneliness between those who used social media regularly and those who went without
While social media itself may not be innately disruptive or toxic, the devices social media’s accessed through have had some demonstrably negative effects on users.
Blue light emitted from most laptop and smartphone screens can disrupt a person’s natural circadian rhythms and make it harder to fall asleep.
A study from the University of Glasgow published in October found that teens who spent more than three hours a day on social media tended to sleep less than those used social media less frequently.
HOW DOES BLUE LIGHT AFFECT SLEEP AND WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Circadian rhythms are around 24-hours in length.
They vary from person to person – which is why some people are ‘morning people’ and others are ‘night owls’.
Natural factors within the body produce circadian rhythms as well as environmental signals such as daylight.
Irregular rhythms have been linked to various chronic health conditions, such as sleep disorders, obesity, diabetes and depression.
Exposure to light suppresses the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that influences circadian rhythms and helps with sleep.
Melatonin levels rise in the evening and stay elevated throughout the night, promoting sleep.
Artificial lighting and electronics with blue wavelengths trick the mind into thinking it’s daytime.
How can you reduce your exposure?
- Use dim red lights, which have the least effect on melatonin, for night lights.
- Avoid looking at bright screens beginning two to three hours before bed.
- If you work a night shift or use a lot of electronic devices at night, there are glasses and apps that can filter the blue light.
- Check if your phone settings have a night time setting which automatically shifts the display screen to warmer colours at sunset time.