Happiness can be just taking a break from Facebook

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NEW research indicates that taking a break from social media can be positive for mental health.

The Happiness Research Institute in Denmark conducted a study of 1095 people, allocating some people to continue their usual Facebook use, while others took a break for a week.

After the test, 88 per cent of those not using Facebook said they felt happy, compared with 81 per cent of those still using Facebook.

Studies show the negative effects of social media are exacerbated among teenagers.

The Australian Psychological Society’s annual Stress and Wellbeing survey found 60 per cent of teenagers worry when they find out via social media that their friends have been having fun without them, compared with 17 per cent of adults.

David O’Sign, chief executive of Cornerstone Youth Services in Launceston, said that social media shouldn’t substitute in-person interaction.

He said that friends leading busy lives could lead to online updates replacing in-person contact, meaning friends miss out on “that social interaction that can be meaningful, and that support that you get through that interaction”.

Falling victim to online vitriol is also a risk.

“There’s a lot of uncontrollables in terms of social media in that you don’t know how other people are going to respond to what you put out there,” Mr O’Sign said.

“From our perspective, we’d be thinking about just making sure people are well educated about how they can respond in certain situations.”

Doctor Nicholas Hookway, a lecturer in sociology at UTAS, said we need to examine the positive and negative aspects of social media.

“It’s been quite well documented that social media plays an important role in terms of creating that sense of belonging and social connectedness among different communities,” Dr Hookway said. “It’s been shown to be particularly powerful for people living in remote or regional areas, people from linguistically diverse backgrounds, LGBTI backgrounds. It’s a really good way for people to find their people.”

Dr Hookway said social media users needed to be wary that the lives people presented online were often illusory.

He said there was “a culture of envy”, as social media users presented an idealised versions of their lives which could cause feelings of inferiority and insecurity in others.

Courtesy of The Examiner