Depressed and anxious? Try cutting back on your social media use
Do you often feel anxious and depressed? If you’ve been spending almost all day on social media, cutting it down to 30 minutes daily can significantly reduce your anxiety and depression. This is according to a new study by the American Psychological Association and the U.S. Surgeon General.
Of course, the impact of social media use on mental health is no new topic. In fact, taking social media breaks once in a while can be incredibly beneficial to your mental health. But rather than eliminating social media use entirely, which is almost impossible today, limiting daily usage strikes a better balance.
And reducing social media use is especially relevant for young adults who are most affected negatively by their excessive consumption.
In this particular study, 230 college students participated in a two-week experiment. The researchers divided them into two groups, with one group asked to limit their social media usage to just 30 minutes per day. The participants in this group received automated daily reminders to help them stay on track. The results were astonishing.
Compared to the control group, the students who limited social media use to 30 minutes daily reported significantly lower levels of anxiety, depression, loneliness, and the infamous "fear of missing out." Moreover, they experience more positive emotions overall, indicating a brighter and more optimistic outlook on life.
But here’s the best part about the study.
Willingness is key
The researchers discovered that even participants who occasionally exceeded the 30-minute time limit also experienced psychological benefits from cutting back on their social media usage. This led Ella Faulhaber, Ph.D, the lead author of this groundbreaking study, to conclude that deriving the benefit lies not in sticking to that 30-minute mark perfectly, but rather in making a genuine effort to reduce social media consumption.
It was less about the timeline and more about willingness and attentiveness.
Throughout the study, many participants confessed that the initial days of cutting back on social media proved challenging. However, as they continued, it got easier as they began to reap the rewards. Some expressed heightened productivity and a stronger connection with their lives, while others noticed improved sleep patterns and increased face-to-face interactions with loved ones.
Although previous studies had explored the effects of limiting or abstaining from social media, most of them subjected the participants to stringent supervision, app deletions, or specialized applications to restrict access to social media platforms. It was like “forcing” the participants against their will. While external accountability can be beneficial for individuals grappling with addiction, it may trigger resistance.
When you do anything positive out of freewill, the mental health benefits can be tremendous.
Complete elimination of social media platforms can be harmful, inadvertently preventing young people from connecting with their loved ones or keeping in touch with the big world going on around them. So, rather than sacrificing sacrifice these valuable aspects, the key is to willingly limit your social media use, with full knowledge of what you stand to gain.
If you find it difficult to curtail your social media consumption, Faulhaber suggests the following:
- Set a timer or utilize wellness apps that track your social media usage.
- Take it easy on yourself. Recognize that adhering to time limits is not a walk in the park. Social media platforms are skillfully designed to captivate your attention. It's okay to stumble along the way.
- Don't give up. Limiting social media use over time has real benefits for your daily life. As you keep trying and start experiencing more happiness and all-round well.
In an age when depression, anxiety, and loneliness are on the rise, finding ways to fight these emotions is crucial. And if something as simple as cutting back on social media can help, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t make an effort.