Deleting Facebook decreases stress levels

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It might be time to pull the plug on your Facebook addiction, with a new study claiming the social media platform can be detrimental to your health.

A University of Queensland research team led by Dr Eric Vanman of the School of Psychology examined the effects of a short break from Facebook on a person’s stress and well-being.

The idea for the study came from Dr Vanman’s own experience of quitting Facebook from time-to-time.

The study involved 138 active users of Facebook, who were divided into two groups. One group was instructed to stay off Facebook for five days and the other group to use Facebook as normal.

The participants provided saliva samples at the beginning and end of the study, measuring changes in their cortisol levels (a hormone that is released in response to stress).

The research found that taking a Facebook break for just five days reduced a person’s level of the stress hormone.

“However, while participants in our study showed an improvement in physiological stress by giving up Facebook, they also reported lower feelings of well-being,” Dr Vanman explained.

“People said they felt more unsatisfied with their life, and were looking forward to resuming their Facebook activity.”

Dr Vanman suggested several theories behind the mixed results.

“Abstaining from Facebook was shown to reduce a person’s level of the stress hormone cortisol, but people’s own ratings of their stress did not change – perhaps because they weren’t aware their stress had gone down,” he said.

“People experienced less well-being after those five days without Facebook – they felt less content with their lives – from the resulting social disconnection of being cut-off from their Facebook friends.

“We don’t think that this is necessarily unique to Facebook, as people’s stress levels will probably reduce anytime they take a break from their favourite social media platforms.”

Do you take ‘Facebook vacations’?

Dr Vanman found that he was not alone in taking ‘Facebook vacations’, saying that other colleagues at the University of Queensland admitted taking similar breaks for several days or weeks when they found it too stressful or overwhelming and reconnected afterwards.

“One of my students kept herself off Facebook by having her friend change her password so she wouldn’t be tempted to come back on, but eventually she broke down and got the password from her friend after two months had passed,” Dr Vanman said. “It seems that people take a break because they’re too stressed, but return to Facebook whenever they feel unhappy because they have been cut off from their friends. It then becomes stressful again after a while, so they take another break. And so on.”

While Facebook has become an essential social tool for millions of users, providing a number benefits, due to it conveying so much social information about a large network of people, it can also be taxing.

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