Five days of Facebook abstinence can significantly lower one's stress levels, according to a new study published in the Journal of Social Psychology. Lead researcher Eric Vanman studied 138 highly active Facebook users who spend three or more hours browsing the world's most popular social network on a daily basis and asked half of them not to access the service for five days after a set period of time. Based on their levels of cortisol — the stress-inducing hormone — measured from saliva samples, the amount of stress experienced by the subjects decreased in a significant manner following their abstinence episode.
Mr. Vanman noted that there's no such a thing as an average stress level; as human bodies differ, so to their cortisol tolerance limits. Regardless, the study clearly points to a link between social networks and stress. Refraining from using Facebook also didn't yield universally positive results, with most subjects claiming they have a worse sense of well-being after not using the service for nearly a week. Mr. Vanman believes that phenomenon can be explained by a general "fear of missing out" on important developments in one's social circle, suggesting the negative effects of Facebook abstinence are a result of conditioned behavior. "Taking mini Facebook vacations may actually help you feel less stressed and more connected in the long run," the researcher concluded during a recent interview on CNBC's Make It.
Facebook and other social networks have previously been accused of conditioning their users with digital validation and tricking them into becoming addicted to their services, thus improving engagement rates and boosting their profits by being able to display more ads. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said one of the company's 2018 goals is ensuring all time users commit to the platform can be classified as "time well spent," with the firm purging its News Feed from the majority of content posted by publishers, i.e. Pages, in its efforts to do so late last year. Facebook is hence fully prepared to sacrifice its engagement rates for long-term sustainability and user happiness, the multi-billionaire said several months back. The company is presently being subjected to scrutiny over its user privacy practices, both due to the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the debut of the European Union's strict General Data Protection Regulation.