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Facebook users who quit the social network for a month feel happier


New research out of Stanford and New York University took a look at what happens when people step back from Facebook for a month.

Through Facebook, the research team recruited 2,488 people who averaged an hour of Facebook use each day. After assessing their “willingness to accept” the idea of deactivating their account for a month, the study assigned eligible participants to an experimental category that would deactivate their accounts or a control group that would not.

Over the course of the month-long experiment, researchers monitored compliance by checking participants’ profiles. The participants self-reported a rotating set of well-being measures in real time, including happiness, what emotion a participant felt over the last 10 minutes and a measure of loneliness.

As the researchers report, leaving Facebook correlated with improvements on well-being measures. They found that the group tasked with quitting Facebook ended up spending less time on other social networks too, instead devoting more time to offline activities like spending time with friends and family (good) and watching television (maybe not so good). Overall the group reported that it spent less time-consuming news in general.

The group that deactivated also reported less time spent on the social network after the study-imposed hiatus was up, suggesting that the break might have given them new insight into their own habits.

“Reduced post-experiment use aligns with our finding that deactivation improved subjective well-being, and it is also consistent with the hypotheses that Facebook is habit forming… or that people learned that they enjoy life without Facebook more than they had anticipated,” the paper’s authors wrote.

There are a few things to be aware of with the research. The paper notes that subjects were told they would “keep [their] access to Facebook Messenger.” Though the potential impact of letting participants remain on Messenger isn’t mentioned again, it sounds like they were still freely using one of the pla