In our fast-paced, tech-driven world, a break from social media—every once in a while—is always welcome. An indubitable contributor to our mental anguish, social media platforms play a significant role in rousing feelings of unworthiness, anxiety, and unease. "Human beings are social animals that have an evolutionary need for companionship and to build connections that constitute their social milieu," says Nishtha Narula, Counselling Psychologist. "Although, this very social system that offers us the support, can, at times, put us under pressure, triggering angst. Social media platforms are the best example of this dichotomy," she goes on to explain.
In keeping with this notion, a study published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking has established a link between a week-long social media cleanse and a notable decrease in the anxiety and depression experienced by its participants. The research based its findings on the social media behaviours of 154 participants, with a mean age of 29.6 years, who were either asked to refrain from using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok for a week, or continue to do so.
The mental health of the sample size was assessed before the study commenced and it was found that those who abstained from social media for a week noted a significant reduction in anxiety and depression, and a consequent increase in overall well-being. The control group, who didn't undergo the detox, failed to experience any comparable positive outcomes.
"Many of our participants reported positive effects from being off social media, with improved mood and less anxiety. This suggests that even just a small break can have an impact,” posits Jeffrey Lambert, first author of the study and lecturer at the University of Bath. Future research should extend this to clinical populations and examine its effects over the long term, the study put forth. "Future work could attempt to recruit a larger sample of participants to explore process-related queries around frequency, intensity, and type of social media, and add further understanding to the mechanisms by which reducing social media can contribute to better mental health. It should also examine how participant-level psychological, social, behavioural, and individual factors moderate the effect of social media abstinence on mental health outcomes," claimed the authors of the study.
While on the one hand, social media aids in building social connections and presents a platform for self-expression, it can also set off a downward spiral of comparisons. Through constant social pressure to have desirable numbers that plague our self-confidence, a false perception of reality based on what one sees is encouraged.