Methods: For the study, 143 students at the University of Pennsylvania were assigned at random to either reduce their use of Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat to only 10 minutes a day per app, or to continue using social media as they normally would, according to the study.
- Participants were also required to provide data from their phones so researchers would know exactly how much time they spent on each app.
- Before and after the three-week experimental period, participants had to fill out a questionnaire so researchers could get a grasp on how each participant was doing mentally — with this questionnaire, researchers were specifically interested in anxiety, loneliness, depression and “fear of missing out,” according to the study.
Here’s what they found:
- Feeling better: Participants who reduced social media use to 30 minutes per day felt substantially better after the experimental period and reported a decrease in feelings of loneliness and depression. These results were especially significant in participants who began the experimental period with more feelings of loneliness and depression, according to the study.
- Less anxiety and fear: Both those who limited social media use and those who continued on as usual reported less anxiety and less FOMO (fear of missing out) at the end in the study period. Researchers stated they predict this to be a result of an increase in self-monitoring, according to the study.
What they’re saying: “It is a little ironic that reducing your use of social media actually makes you feel less lonely,” study author Melissa G. Hunt said, according to Harvard Health Blog. “Some of the existing literature on social media suggests there’s an enormous amount of social comparison that happens. 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.”