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Facebook acknowledges it impacts mental health; here are 5 ways to reduce its effects

Facebook admits that it can be bad for your mental health, and suggests the correct way of using the platform.

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While totally hooked to social media, we tend to be unaware of the fact that these platforms come with a very dark side. Several studies have concluded that social media could eventually lead to depression – especially among teens.

A recent study by Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) revealed that almost all social media platforms have an impact on our mental health. Though some have a positive effect, others are hazardous, which has further resulted in rise of mental disorders among the youngsters. And these mental health issues are caused by a number of factors. Some of which are bullying, stalking, narcissism, or simply the constant pressure to keep up with the peers on social media.

Now it is no doubt impractical to entirely take away social media platform from yourself or from a teen in your house. But there are some disciplinary ways you can practice to ensure that social media, and Facebook, in this case, is slightly less terrible for your mental health.

Therefore, Facebook research scientist Moira Burke has published a report on ways users could minimize the danger of the platform. I can’t help but mention, that this reminds me of the mandatory no smoking disclaimers that movies now have just at the beginning.

Post and don’t just scroll

Burke starts off citing a study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology that found University of Michigan students randomly assigned to read Facebook for 10 minutes were in a worse mood at the end of the day, as compared to the students assigned to post or talk to friends on the platform.

The lesson being that users who use the platform to interact gain more from it, as compared to the ones who passively use the platform looking and reading what others posted. Sending or receiving direct messages or posts and comments on one’s timeline boost psychological well-being, Carnegie Mellon researchers found. “Simply broadcasting status updates wasn’t enough; people had to interact one-on-one with others in their network,” the company says in its blog.

Take a break

Contrary to what you would believe Facebook would want you to do, researchers believe that taking a week off Facebook once in a while is good for you. Giving up Facebook for a few days (and they make it clear that, it’s not a forever thing) has been proven to give people a psychological boost. Danish researchers got 1,095 volunteers to rate their happiness after one group gave up Facebook for a week, and another kept using it daily. In the group, which gave up, self-reported happiness levels (out of 10) went from 7.56 to 8.12.

Don’t stalk, do your own thing

Facebook says that millions of people break up on its platform each week, changing their relationship status from “in a relationship” to “single”. Research on peoples’ experiences after breakups suggests that offline and online contact, including stalking your ex, can make emotional recovery more difficult.

To counter such a time, Facebook has a tool called Take a Break, which gives people more centralized control over when they see their ex on Facebook, what their ex can see, and who can see their past posts. Besides, Facebook has recently also launched a tool called Snooze, which gives you the option to hide a person, Page or group for 30 days, without having to permanently unfollow or unfriend them.

Stay positive in life, and on Facebook

As they say, love spreads faster than hate. Even on Facebook ‘positive expressions spread more than negative’, says University of San Diego professor James Fowler. Fowler and his team analyzed a billion Facebook posts from 100 million users – and found that positive posts generated positive emotional replies from friends. Happiness spreads on Facebook like a virus, Fowler says. He adds, “We should be doing everything we can to measure the effects of social networks and to learn how to magnify them so that we can create an epidemic of wellbeing.”

Stay humble

Finally, a study by Carnegie Mellon University found that most of us underestimate just how much people hate ‘humblebrags’ online. “When we engage in self-promotion ourselves, we tend to overestimate others’ positive reactions and underestimate their negative ones,” said Irene Scopelliti of City University, the study’s lead author.

  • Published Date: December 19, 2017 4:05 PM IST