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Quitting Facebook Boosts Offline Interaction, Personal Well-Being

I quit engaging much on Facebook in November 2018, when Facebook admitted to targeting George Soros with a smear campaign for criticizing their company. I still kept my accounts, mostly to promote this blog… but last week I finally decided a one-third boost in blog traffic isn’t worth the continued entanglement with Facebook’s questionable morality and deleted both my Dakota Free Press Facebook page and my personal account.

According to new research, I made a somewhat healthy choice. Computer science professor and productivity guru Cal Newport summarizes the findings of a study that paid 2,743 users to forsake Facebook for a month, then randomly divided that group into a treatment group that stayed off Facebook and a control group that went back to Friending and Liking:

  • “Deactivating Facebook freed up 60 minutes per day for the average person in our Treatment group.” Much of this time was reinvested in offline activities, including, notably, socializing with friends and family.
  • “Deactivation caused small but significant improvements in well-being, and in particular in self-reported happiness, life satisfaction, depression, and anxiety.” The researchers report this effect to be around 25-40% of the effect typically attributed to participating in therapy.
  • “As the experiment ended, participants reported planning to use Facebook much less in the future.” Five percent of the Treatment group went even farther and declined to reactivate their account after the experiment ended.
  • “The Treatment group was less likely to say they follow news about politics or the President, and less able to correctly answer factual questions about recent news events.” This was not surprising given that this group spent 15% less time reading any type of online news during the experiment.
  • “Deactivation significantly reduced polarization of views on policy issues and a measure of exposure to polarizing news.” On the other hand, it didn’t significantly reduce negative feelings about the other political party [Cal Newport, “Top Economists Study What Happens When You Stop Using Facebook,” Study Hacks Blog, 2020.02.29].

Not that I need more socializing—quite the opposite to save humanity from covid-19, right?)—happiness, or life satisfaction—outside of the political realm, I’m one of the most content people I know. I’ll work on reading extra news articles to make up for the possible decline in current-events quiz scores. ;-)

Several days after posting on that study, Newport came across another new study finding that dropping Facebook is good for us:

Life satisfaction significantly increased, and depressive symptoms significantly decreased. Moreover, frequency of physical activity such as jogging or cycling significantly increased, and number of daily smoked cigarettes decreased. Effects remained stable during follow-up (three months). Thus, less time spent on Facebook leads to more well-being and a healthier lifestyle [Julia Brailovskaia, Fabienne Ströse, Holger Schillack, and Jürgen Margraf, “Less Facebook Use—More Well-Being and Healthier Lifestyle? An Experimental Intervention Study,” Computers in Human Behavior, July 2020].

I’ll keep the Facebook sharing button in the “More” box at the bottom of posts here. Where and how you share Dakota Free Press posts is your business.