New study suggests a break from Facebook has a multitude of positive effects
By Leah Ching, Staff Writer
Author Timothy Burke, a scholar of culture, politics, and history, once wrote that through digital media, “it’s everyman a Lord Byron or George Eliot, if he or she wants to be. The crafting of gentler fictions of selfhood, performative shadings and experiments of our everyday personalities, through disseminated publication, is now a widely distributed possibility.” In layman terms, Burke believed that digital media and advances in technology allow people access to a new world in which they can construct a personality of their choosing to present to the public.
Burke may nod favourably at a new study, recently published by the “Copenhagen’s Happiness Research Institute” entitled “The Facebook Experiment.” The Facebook experiment sought to study people’s behaviours on and off of Facebook with interesting results. The results of this study suggest that quitting Facebook, even for a short period of time, will correlate with happiness and less stress.
For their project, the researchers split a group of 1095 Facebookers in half, allowing one group to continue Facebook use, while the others were forced to refrain from using the social media platform.
88% of the group that left facebook felt “happy,” as opposed to 81% still using the site. Other observations in the group off facebook included feeling less angry, lonely, depressed, and indecisive, having more enthusiasm, and enjoying stress more. The results also showed a reduction in stress levels by as much as 55%.
Burke, a cultural critic and historian, also wrote about social media by observing the connection between social media and the crafting of public personas. He pointed to the personas people create via social media outlets as the “darker side of such invention,” noting that “such performances sometimes became ‘creative and psychological prisons for their creators, or that they obscured or enabled private hypocrisy and ugliness’.” A bold statement, the results of the Facebook experiment seem to echo Burke’s conclusions.
The study notes that “People on Facebook are 39% more likely to feel less happy than their friends.” With 5 out of 10 envy the experiences of others posted on Facebook and 4 out of 10 envying the apparent success of others on Facebook. Facebook and social media platforms allow users to pick and share the best parts of their lives and interact with others with a certain degree of distance and caution.
A nineteen-year-old Australian Instagram model, Essena O’Neill went viral last week after quitting the application. O’Neill rose to fame on Instagram for her photos, but said that they were all fake, and made her miserable and discontent with herself. “Social media is not real life,” she said in an interview.
There is definitely a rising current of people who find a more content existence through quitting social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. One third year philosophy student Alex said “People crave authentic communication and contact. There’s an emotional aspect missing from Facebook and Instagram. My girlfriend once told me she took 20 pictures of herself before she found one she liked enough to post on Instagram. The way those platforms affect us are insidious, and we don’t even stop to think about it until it’s too late. Humans aren’t meant to seek validation through likes and comments, yet here we are.”
Although the Facebook Experiment only addresses people’s short term feelings after leaving facebook, it serves as a reminder to us that Facebook can facilitate communication, but cannot replace authentic friendship, and can definitely come with some downsides.