Study: Leaving Facebook will make you happier but less informed

Facebook controversies for January 2019

Anyone who’s ever wasted time arguing politics with a family member or old classmate on Facebook knows that the platform can be aggravating. A recent study even suggests that it is actually bad for a person’s mental health.

On Jan. 27, researchers from Stanford University and New York University published a joint study that examined the psychological impact of using the social media platform.

Scientists recruited 2,844 Facebook users, had them fill out extensive biographical questionnaires and then deactivate their profiles on the popular social networking site for four weeks. The results of the study were varied, but there was one particularly eye-catching finding.

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Participants experienced a “small but significant” increase in life satisfaction and overall happiness, and a corresponding decline in depression and anxiety.

Other Effects of Deactivating Facebook

The study’s subjects also spent more time with friends and family and watching television, and decreased their use of other social media platforms during their sabbatical from Facebook.

Moreover, participants were found to be less politically polarized but also less informed about current events. The study was conducted in the run-up to the deeply partisan 2018 midterm elections.

Researchers also found that their subjects missed the site because they used it as a platform for social activism, a source of entertainment and a way to alleviate feelings of social isolation.

However, once the study was complete, the research participants were found to use Facebook considerably less than they previously had.

We Still Love Facebook Despite its Unsavory Qualities

While there is now hard evidence to suggest that using Facebook is directly at odds with personal happiness, it probably will not make the social media giant less popular. Its capacity to be many different things to many different people has seemingly rendered it impervious to major scandals.

The fallout to the Cambridge Analytica fiasco saw the corporation’s stock drop a mere 2 percent. And the revelations that Facebook shares users’ private messages with other tech companies and covertly monitors the activity of Android phone owners did not seriously impair its profitability or reach.

The corporation’s Jan. 30 earnings report revealed that Facebook beat analysts earnings expectations for Q4 2018. In that frame, the platform brought in 30 percent more revenue in Q4 2018 than it in did in Q4 2017. And Facebook increased its daily active users in Europe by 10 million from Q3 2018.

Even the recent disclosure that it pays teenagers to let the company spy on their activities seems unlikely to spark a wave of mass deactivations.

As noted by the Stanford and NYU researchers, there has been “no technology since television that has so dramatically reshaped the way people communicate, get information, and spend their time.” For better or for worse, Facebook is part of the fabric of our society.