Deactivating Facebook will make you happier and less stressed, according to new study

Researchers in the US studied almost 3,000 people who came off the social network for four weeks

FILE - In this March 29, 2018, file photo, the logo for Facebook appears on screens at the Nasdaq MarketSite in New York's Times Square. Facebook says it's tightening up requirements for European Union political ads ahead of bloc-wide elections scheduled for May. It's part of the company's latest efforts to fight misinformation on its platforms. The social media giant said Monday, Jan. 28, 2019 that political ad buyers will need to have their identities confirmed before placing ads, which will also be entered into a public archive.  (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)
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As many who have deactivated their Facebook account can attest, and a study has now confirmed - unplugging from social media can make you happier, more satisfied and less stressed.

Researchers from New York University and Stanford University in California studied almost 3,000 people who were willing to deactivate their Facebook accounts for four weeks.

The survey found doing so freed up an average of 60 minutes a day, which participants then spent either watching television alone or with family or friends.

“Deactivation caused small but significant improvements in well-being, and in particular on self-reported happiness, life satisfaction, depression and anxiety,” said the study.

“These results are consistent with prior studies suggesting that Facebook may have adverse affects on mental health.”

The research, released last month, looked at a total of 2,844 Facebook users who agreed to deactivate their accounts.

It found that while the platform "produces large benefits for its users" there were also "downsides", including potentially making the views of users more polarised.

In the UAE, where people spend even more time on social media than in the US - an average of two hours and 56 minutes a day, according to a separate 2018 study - the impact could be more significant.

According to research by Dubai-based digital agency Global Media Insight, 99.26 per cent of the Emirates population are active social media users. Facebook is the most popular social network, followed by YouTube, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Whether social media is 'good' for us depends largely on the kind of relationship we have with it

“Whether social media is good for us depends largely on the kind of relationship we have with it,” said Christine Kritzas, a

counselling psychologist at Lighthouse Arabia in Dubai.

“As with any relationship, social media can be good for us provided that we set healthy boundaries with it.”

Ms Kritzas went on to highlight social media as being a useful platform for connecting people, strengthening bonds and complimenting relationships.

But she also pointed to research which has stressed its negative impacts, including sleep quality, raising risks of depression and anxiety, and feelings of isolation and poor self-esteem.

She suggested everyone should take a break from social media from time to time to reevaluate their relationship with it and establish healthier boundaries before returning.

A break can help people sleep better and become more grounded, productive and even confident, she said.

“If a relationship is based solely online, without any face-to-face interactions, it can lead to people feeling isolated and lonely,” Ms Kritzas said.

“Less time on social media apps means less opportunities for comparing yourself to filtered versions of others, which is known to impact self-esteem negatively."

Researchers in the US study also identified one downside of choosing to stop using Facebook. People who unplugged from the social network were less informed about political events, they said.

Justin Thomas, however, a professor of the College of Natural and Health Sciences at Zayed University, questioned whether social media use made people better informed.

“A research study looking at Facebook use and political knowledge showed that Facebook users ‘thought’ they were more informed but in fact they were not," he said. The greater the Facebook use, the larger this effect.

“This effect is known as the Dunning Kruger effect or meta-ignorance [not knowing we don't know]. Social media give us the false impression that we know things, when we probably don't.”

Prof Thomas also agreed that healthy social media use required self-monitoring and moderation.

“Like we can't eat cream cakes all day every day without adverse consequences, the same is true of social media," he said.