Published: Sat, November 17, 2018
Medicine | By Tracy Klein

Limiting social media to 10 minutes a day can improve mental health

Limiting social media to 10 minutes a day can improve mental health

Could you limit your social network use to just 10 minutes a day?

"Here's the bottom line", said Melissa G. Hunt, Ph.D., a lead psychologist at UPenn who led the study, in a news release.

Scientists from the University of Pennsylvania conducted a study among students who are active users of Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat.

The study showed that young women who actively engage with social media images of friends who they think more attractive than themselves are more likely to feel worse about their own appearance later.

It's always been talked about that social media increases depression and anxiety, but the first causal study in an effort to prove this theory was released by the University of Pennsylvania.

Hunt and Young emphasized that the study did not intend to eliminate social media usage entirely among the intervention group. The study looked at Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, finding that the use of these apps resulted in a decrease in one's sense of wellbeing.

A total of 143 undergraduates at the university participated. These effects were more prominently observed among the students who came into the study already having depression.

Researchers, however are optimistic about the future of the study as it is the first of it's kind and say that a lot more can be revealed after a longer duration of testing.

Half of the participants used social media as normal, while the other half limited their usage to only ten minutes per day for each of the platforms studied: Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat.

Participants were required to submit screenshots of their iPhone battery usage at specified increments to verify usage.

Three weeks later the students were questioned for assessing their mental health across seven areas, including fear of missing out (FOMO), social support, autonomy and self-acceptance, loneliness, anxiety, self-esteem, and depression.

The authors wrote: "It is ironic, but perhaps not surprising, that reducing social media, which promised to help us connect with others, actually helps people feel less lonely and depressed". When you look at other people's lives, particularly on Instagram, it's easy to conclude that everyone else's life is cooler or better than yours.

Most of us can't think of going a day without social media.

The group that cut back their social media time had significant decreases in loneness and depression, compared with the group that used social media as usual.

"However, it is important to note that all social media use is not the same", said Primack.

For one, reduce opportunities for social comparison, she says.

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