Taking a break from Facebook can boost emotional well-being and life satisfaction, with the effects particularly pronounced among people who “lurk” on the social network without actively engaging with others, a study suggests.
The research, by the University of Copenhagen, showed the effects of quitting for a week were also strong among heavy users and those who envied their Facebook friends, suggesting people who pore irritably over the posts of others may benefit the most.
Report author Morten Tromholt, from the university’s sociology department, said the findings suggested that changes in behaviour — for example, heavy users reducing their time spent on Facebook, or lurkers actively engaging — could yield positive results.
But he indicated that people could find it difficult to change their behaviour — 13pc of the study’s participants who were supposed to be taking a break admitted to using the social network — and so quitting may be necessary.
The study, published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, involved 1,095 people, 86pc of whom were women. They were randomly assigned to two groups: one which continued using Facebook as normal and one which stopped using the social network for a week.
On average, the participants were aged 34, had 350 Facebook friends and spent just over an hour a day on the social network.
Questionnaires conducted at the beginning and end of the week indicated that taking a break from the site increased life satisfaction and positive emotions.
The effects of quitting were found to be greater among heavy users, passive users and those who envied others on the social network. There was no positive effect of taking a break for light users.
—By arrangement with The Guardian