Taking a 'Facebook holiday' could be good for your mental health -- here's how long you should stay away from the site

ShutterstockTaking a ‘Facebook holiday’ could be good for you.
  • Taking a break from Facebook for five days could reduce your stress levels, according to a new study.
  • But leaving the social network for too long can make you feel cut off from friends, with participants in the study reporting lower life satisfaction.
  • That’s one reason why people inevitably return to Facebook when they have been off it a while.

Deleting Facebook may have been quite tempting amid the Cambridge Analytica scandal, when users realised their data had been scraped and used in ways they weren’t happy with.

But according to some research, deleting Facebook might not be the best idea in the long run – especially if you rely on it for keeping up with your friends.

A Facebook holiday, however, could be quite beneficial, says research spotted by BPS Digest. According to the study, published in The Journal of Social Psychology, giving up Facebook for a few days could lower your cortisol levels – the stress hormone.

Researchers at the University of Queensland recruited 138 active Facebook users, who spend an average of 2.8 hours a day on the app. They completed a questionnaire about their Facebook use, life-satisfaction, stress, mood and loneliness, and also gave saliva samples so the researchers could measure the amount of cortisol in their bodies.

Half of the participants were asked to give up Facebook for five days, while the other group used it as normal. Before the break, all the participants wrote what they thought the next five days would be like. Then, after five days, they returned to complete another questionnaire and provide another sample of saliva.

All of those who took Facebook hiatus assumed it would be terrible. And results did show that they reported lower life satisfaction at the end of the five days compared to those who were allowed to use Facebook.

However, their cortisol levels were also lower, suggesting they felt less stressed over the Facebook break than those who were using the site as normal. The Facebook holidayers didn’t report feeling less stressed though, perhaps because they weren’t aware their stress levels had gone down, the researchers said.

“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,” said Eric Vanman, a psychologist at the University of Queensland, who led the research.

He added that when he told his colleagues about “Facebook vacations,” many people admitted to trying it when they found Facebook too stressful or overwhelming. But most people always come back.

One student kept herself off Facebook by having her friend change her password. But she eventually caved after about two months.

“Facebook has become an essential social tool for millions of users and it obviously provides many benefits. Yet, because it conveys so much social information about a large network of people, it can also be taxing,” 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.”

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