In July, both the American Psychological Association and the US Surgeon General issued health warnings. These guidelines are aimed at teenagers, parents and lawmakers and are based on a growing body of research showing links between two related trends.
Young people’s social media engagement is on the rise, and this increase correlates with their poorer mental health.
Researchers at Iowa State University have found that simple interventions can help. In a two-week experiment of 230 college students, half were asked to limit their social media use to 30 minutes a day and received automatic reminders daily. They had significantly lower scores for anxiety, depression, loneliness, and fear of missing out at the end of the experiment compared to controls.
They also scored highly on ‘positive emotions’, which the researchers describe as ‘the propensity to experience positive emotions expressed in words such as ‘excitement’ and ‘pride’. Essentially, they had a brighter outlook on life.
“I was surprised to find that the overall well-being of the participants was improved, not just one dimension. I was very excited to know that I could motivate them to improve,” says Dr. Ella Faulhaber. She is a student of human-computer interaction and the first author of a paper.
The researchers found that the psychological benefits of reducing social media use extended to participants who sometimes exceeded the 30-minute time limit.
“The lesson here is that hard work makes a difference, not perfection. said.
Co-author and eminent professor of psychology Douglas A. Gentile says their results are consistent with other research emerging from the kinesiology and health fields.
“Knowing how much time we spend on our daily activities and being able to count something makes it easier for people to change their behavior,” says Fitbits and Daily Steps. as an example, he says.
Many ISU survey participants commented that the first few days of weight loss were difficult. But after the first effort, one said he felt more productive and in tune with his life. Others say they sleep better or spend more time in face-to-face contact with people.
Self-limiting may be more practical
Gentile and Faulhaber point out that other studies have also explored the impact of limiting or refraining from social media. However, many interventions require heavy supervision and removal of apps or the use of special applications to block or restrict social media. Similar to rehab for drug addicts, external accountability may help some users. But it also runs the risk of backfiring.
“When our supposed freedom is taken away, we start to resist,” says Gentile. He added that ditching social media also means losing some of the benefits it brings, such as connecting with friends and family.
Faulhaber said their study expands on current research on social media and provides practical ways for people to limit their social media use. For those looking to lose weight, she recommends:
- Raise awareness. Set a timer or use the built-in wellness app to see how much time you spend on social media.
- give yourself grace. Recognize that meeting the time limit is not easy. Social media apps are designed to keep you engaged.
- Do not give up. Limiting your social media usage over the long term can have great benefits in your daily life.
Researchers say it’s also important to be mindful of when and how you use these platforms. Future research may explore this point further, along with the long-term effects of social media restrictions and what people do with the time they have.
“We live in an era of anxiety. Many indicators point to anxiety, depression and feelings of loneliness all worsening, which can leave us feeling helpless. But there are things we can do to manage our mental health and well-being,” says Gentile.
Paying more attention to how much time you spend on social media and setting measurable goals can help.
Reference: Manuela Ellen Faulhaber, John Ng Lee, and Douglas A. Gentile, “Effects of Self-Monitoring of Limited Social Media Use on Psychological Well-Being,” May 31, 2023. , technology mind and action.
Jeong Eun Lee, Assistant Professor of Human Development and Family Studies, contributed to this paper.