BOCHUM, Germany — If Marty McFly and Doc Brown hopped in their DeLorean today and traveled back in time to 2010, they would be reminded of just how popular Facebook once was. Mark Zuckerberg’s Harvard creation used to rule the social media world, but today the platform feels more like a court jester. Facebook used to be a place where young people interacted and shared pictures, but now it’s more synonymous with cringe-worthy memes and infuriating political discussion.
German researchers from Ruhr-Universität Bochum have found that people who reduce the amount of time they spend on Facebook end up smoking less, being more active, and feeling happier in general. Incredibly, the positive effects of logging off stayed with the participants for months after the experiment concluded.
All in all, 286 people took part in the study. Among that entire group the average individual browsed Facebook for at least 25 minutes, with most spending roughly an hour logged on. Participants were divided into two groups; 146 were told to keep using Facebook as they normally would, while the others (140) were asked to spend 20 minutes less each day on the platform for two weeks.
Participants were asked to fill out a series of surveys to measure their wellbeing and lifestyle choices as well. These questionnaires were distributed before the experimental period, one week into the experiment, after the full two weeks, one month later, and three months later.
The subsequent results showed that participants who made an effort to use Facebook less saw both their active and passive Facebook browsing tendencies drop.
“This is significant, because passive use in particular leads to people comparing themselves with others and thus experiencing envy and a reduction in psychological well-being,” says study leader Dr. Julia Brailovskaia in a release.
Furthermore, using Facebook less in general lead to fewer cigarettes smoked, more exercise, and fewer signs of depression than the control group. To put it simply, avoiding Facebook increased participants’ life satisfaction.
“After the two-week period of Facebook detox, these effects, i.e. the improvement of well-being and a healthier lifestyle, lasted until the final checks three months after the experiment,” Dr. Brailovskaia notes.
These results, according to the research team, suggest that no one has to quit Facebook altogether if they don’t want to; cutting back should be enough to avoid a social media addiction and any other associated negative side effects, such as anxiety.
“It’s not necessary to give up the platform altogether,” Dr. Brailovskaia. concludes.
The study is published in Computers in Human Behavior.