- Jan 2015
Thoughts?Last March I deleted my Facebook account and never looked back. In the year since I left Facebook (and every other social media platform), I’ve experienced a significant improvement in my quality of life—I spend more time on my hobbies, feel less anxious and angry from constant exposure to the news cycle, have a noticeably longer attention span, and feel more present in the moment when I’m hanging out with friends and family.
Everyone is different, of course, and it would be easy to dismiss my positive subjective experience after leaving Facebook as an anomaly or rationalization. According to a massive new study conducted by researchers at Stanford and New York University, I am far from alone.
The randomized study, which hasn’t been peer reviewed yet, measured the wellbeing of hundreds of individuals for a month after they left Facebook and found that the experience improved their subjective wellbeing, increased the amount of time they spent doing offline activities, and led to a significant reduction of Facebook use after the study was over.
“I would have expected more substitution from Facebook to other digital things—Twitter, Snapchat, online browsing,” Matthew Gentzkow, an economist at Stanford and co-author of the study, told the New York Times. “That didn’t happen, and for me at least, it was a surprise.”
It wasn’t all good news, however. The reduction of Facebook use also led to more time watching TV alone and also resulted in people being less factually informed about political news. The caveat to the last item, however, is that it also led to less polarized political opinions in the subjects.
The researchers conducted the study on 2,844 Facebook users in the run up to the 2018 midterms in November. The participants, who were recruited using Facebook ads, were asked how much money they would be willing to accept to leave Facebook for four weeks, which is another way of asking how much they valued a month of access to Facebook. Half of the participants who said they would leave Facebook for less than $100 were then randomly selected to join the month-long study.