London, Dec 17 : Just 30 minutes less social media use per day can help improve mental health, job satisfaction and commitment, according to a study.
While social media have become an integral part of many people’s lives, it also has a negative impact on mental health and causes users to fear missing out on something important happening in their network when they aren’t online — a phenomenon referred to as FoMO (Fear of Missing Out).
“We suspect that people tend to use social networks to generate positive emotions that they’re missing in their everyday working lives, especially when they are feeling overworked,” explains Julia Brailovskaia, Associate Professor at from the Mental Health Research and Treatment Center at Ruhr University Bochum in Germany.
“In addition, some platforms such as LinkedIn also offer the opportunity to look for new jobs if you’re unhappy with your current role,” she added.
In the short-term, escaping from reality into the world of social networks may indeed improve your mood; but in the long-term, it can lead to addictive behaviour that has the opposite effect.
In a study, published in the journal Behaviour and Information Technology, the team launched an experiment to explore these correlations.
A total of 166 people took part, all of whom worked either part-time or full-time in a range of sectors and spent at least 35 minutes a day on non-work-related social media use.
Participants were randomly assigned to one of two groups. One group didn’t change their social media habits.
The other group reduced the time spent on social networks by 30 minutes a day for seven days.
The participants completed various questionnaires online before the start of the experiment, the day after it began and one week later, providing information about their workload, job satisfaction, commitment, mental health, stress levels, FoMO and behaviours indicating addictive social media use.
“Even after this short period of time, we found that the group that spent 30 minutes less a day on social media significantly improved their job satisfaction and mental health,” Brailovskaia said.
“The participants in this group felt less overworked and were more committed on the job than the control group.”
Their sense of FoMO decreased likewise. The effects lasted for at least a week after the end of the experiment and even increased in some cases during this time. The participants who’d reduced their daily social media use voluntarily continued to do so even after a week.
The researchers assume that, by reducing their social media use, the participants had more time to do their job, which meant they felt less overworked, and also suffered less from divided attention.
“Our brains can’t cope well with constant distraction from a task,” Brailovskaia said.
“People who frequently stop what they’re doing in order to catch up on their social media feed find it more difficult to focus on their work and they achieve poorer results.”
In addition, time spent on social media may prevent people from interacting with their colleagues in real life, which can lead to alienation. Reducing time spent on social media could reduce this effect.