Over the years there has been many speculations and studies linking intensive social media use to Feelings of loneliness and depression. However a recent study from Penn State’s psychology department has for the first time used a research based on experimental data to connect Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram use to decreased well-being. Psychologist from Penn Melissa G. Hunt published her findings in the December Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology.
The experimental study compares the results from an experimental group with their behavior systematically modified, and a control group that’s allowed to do whatever they want. This is in contrary to few prior studies that have attempted to show that social media use harms users’ well-being, and have either put participants in unrealistic situations or were limited in scope, asking them to completely forego Facebook and relying on self-report data, or conducting the work in a lab in as little time as an hour.
“We set out to do a much more comprehensive, rigorous study that was also more ecologically valid,” says Hunt
About The Study
The experimental study involve One Hundred and Forty Three (143) participants who are students from the school. They were monitored for three weeks on the use of Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram.
Participants were then randomly assigned to a control group, which had some users maintain their normal social-media behavior and use. Some were also assigned to an experimental group that limited time on Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram to 10 minutes per platform per day.
These participants were monitored throughout the three weeks through data obtained from their iphone Battery use. With those data in hand, Hunt then looked at seven outcome measures including fear of missing out, anxiety, depression, and loneliness.
The Result Of The Study
The findings of the research further cements earlier speculation and researches linking use of social media to well being.
“Here’s the bottom line,” she says. “Using less social media than you normally would leads to significant decreases in both depression and loneliness. These effects are particularly pronounced for folks who were more depressed when they came into the study.”
The Published findings goes on to say:
The limited use group showed significant reductions in loneliness and depression over three weeks compared to the control group. Both groups showed significant decreases in anxiety and fear of missing out over baseline, suggesting a benefit of increased self-monitoring.
Our findings strongly suggest that limiting social media use to approximately 30 minutes per day may lead to significant improvement in well-being.
How to Combat The Effects
The essence of the research was not to discourage the use of social media totally, however to show the effect it will have on users when they limit the time used on social media. Therefore these suggestions were provided as a means of avoiding the harmful effect of excessive use
- Hunt, the lead research stated that when you look at other people’s lives, particularly on Instagram, it’s easy to conclude that everyone else’s life is cooler or better than yours. So the key is reduce opportunities for social comparison, She says.
- The second advice is to put your phone down and be with the people in your life.
The researchers acknowledge the limited nature of their study and suggest other ways for colleagues in the field to improve on it. For example, exploring more diverse population and including more social media platforms. Also, Longer experimental times and comprehensive follow-ups well after the experiment was suggested.
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