It is no secret that the mania of social media is out of control and research now shows that their use can lead to depression, low self-esteem, body image problems, anxiety, social isolation and more. It can even exacerbate eating disorders and self-destructive behaviors.
If you are thinking of taking a break from the endless scrolling on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok, recent research confirms that it’s a smart move. But just how much time is enough to experience the benefits of mental health from a social media break?
Researchers in a recent study found that participants improved their well-being (defined as the level of positive emotion, life satisfaction, and sense of purpose) and reduced levels of depression and anxiety after a break of just one week.
The researchers wanted to know if people would be able to take a week off, and if that would also lead to changes in mental health. They analyzed the use of social media by 154 adults. At the beginning, each participant was asked to complete a questionnaire to assess their mental health and use of social media. They found, on average, that participants spent about eight hours a week on social media.
After completing the baseline survey, participants were divided into two groups – intervention and control. The intervention team was asked to stop using social media for a week, although they were not checked during this period. Instead, they were given tips on how to log out, such as downloading an app block, disabling social media alerts, and deleting social media apps. Meanwhile, the people in the control group were simply asked to continue using social media normally.
Lower levels of depression and anxiety
After a week, they all completed a follow-up survey to assess their mental health and submitted their screen time analysis to the researchers.
In the end, the researchers found that not only did the people in the intervention group drastically reduce their use of social media – reducing it to just 28 minutes a week, compared to this average of eight hours – but they also noted improvements in well-being and wellness and reported lower levels of depression and anxiety.
Social media and our mental health
The researchers concluded that thinking about reducing your social media exposure and possibly taking a break from social networking sites can be a relatively easy way to help manage your mental health.
The nature of social media is that they are designed to give you dopamine. Dopamine is a type of neurotransmitter. Your body makes it, and your nervous system uses it to send messages between nerve cells. That’s why it’s sometimes called a chemical messenger. Dopamine plays a role in how we feel pleasure. It’s a big part of our unique human ability to think and plan. It helps us strive, focus, and find things interesting.
The problem is that we intend to take dopamine by doing something difficult. A break from social media will allow you to stop thinking too much, and take dopamine from other activities, including exercise. This means that the time you spend cycling can boost your mood and mental well-being even more than it already does. And without spending all this time on social, you have even more free time to go out.
So, a break would be good for your mental health.