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Staying off Facebook can make you happier: social media 'distorts our perception of reality', study claims

Published 10/11/2015

Those who stayed off Facebook for a week felt happier, less stressed and more enthusiastic
Those who stayed off Facebook for a week felt happier, less stressed and more enthusiastic

You may not like it, but staying away from Facebook will probably make you happier.

Researchers in Denmark asked people to stop using their social media account for a week to see if it made any difference.

And, it did according to the report: 'The Facebook Experiment: Does social media affect the quality of our lives?' by the Happiness Research Institute.

Researchers noted that 94 per cent of the participants visited Facebook daily before dividing the 1,095 Danish participants into two groups.

One group continued to use Facebook as they normally would, while the others stopped using the social networking site for a week.

Once the week was finished, participants were asked to evaluate their “life satisfaction” out of a score of 10. This was then compared to the rating they had given before the study began.

Researchers found the group who continued to use Facebook initially produced a score of 7.67. This marginally increased to 7.75 following the week that nothing changed.

However for the group who abandoned the site, their average happiness rating increased from 7.56 to 8.12.

Additionally, these participants also were found to be more decisive and enthusiastic and were less worried, lonely and stressed compared to those who remained on Facebook.

Meik Wiking, the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute attributed the results to people’s tendencies to compare themselves to others on social media.

He told The Local: “Facebook distorts our perception of reality and of what other people’s lives really look like. We take in to account how we’re doing in life through comparisons to everyone else, and since most people only post positive things on Facebook, that gives us a very biased perception of reality.”

“If we are constantly exposed to great news, we risk evaluating our own lives as less good.”

“There can also be positive benefits from Facebook and social media, but I think the real thing to always be aware of is the effect it has on our perception of reality. This constant flow of great news we see on Facebook only represents the top 10 per cent of things that happen to other people. It shouldn’t be used as the background for evaluating our own lives,” he says.

The study comes after teenage Instagram and vlogging star Essena O’Neill made an emotional post revealing what it’s really like to live your life through social media.

In the video she said social media made her “miserable” and warned her thousands of followers: “Social media, especially how I used it, isn’t real. It’s contrived images and edited clips ranked against each other. It’s a system based on social approval… It’s perfectly orchestrated self-absorbed judgement.”

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