Time away from Facebook may improve your wellbeing

A man is silhouetted against a video screen with an Facebook logo as he poses with an Dell laptop in this photo illustration taken in the central Bosnian town of Zenica, August 14, 2013.REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

Despite the scandals of recent years, billions of people still log on to Facebook each month to catch up with the news and see what their friends and family are up to. 

But some time away from the social media platform could do us all some good, according to a new study by researchers at Stanford and NYU. 

The study, titled The Welfare Effects of Social Media, has found 'small but significant improvements in wellbeing' from giving Facebook a break. 

The researchers looked at the effects of Facebook on 2,844 users, half of whom were selected to deactivate their accounts for a month.

In order to ensure that the users stayed off Facebook, their accounts were monitored and they were financially compensated for their sacrifice, the Guardian reports. 

Not only did the researchers find higher self-reported levels of happiness and life satisfaction, they also found that some of those who had given up Facebook for a month were using it less after the study was over. 

'Deactivation caused small but significant improvements in wellbeing, and in particular on self-reported happiness, life satisfaction, depression, and anxiety,' the researchers concluded.

'Effects on subjective wellbeing as measured by responses to brief daily text messages are positive but not significant.'

Although they acknowledged the benefits of Facebook, like greater connectedness to friends and family, and being able to keep apace with news, they said the study findings prove that there is a downside to spending too much time logged on.

'Our results also make clear that the downsides are real,' they said.

'We find that four weeks without Facebook improves subjective wellbeing and substantially reduces post-experiment demand, suggesting that forces such as addiction and projection bias may cause people to use Facebook more than they otherwise would.'

It's not the first time the experts have pointed to the benefits of logging off. 

In a recent study by researchers at Michigan State University, Facebook addicts were found to demonstrate similar levels of impaired decision-making to cocaine and heroine users. 

'Social networking sites users also experience conflict with others because of their use, and when attempting to quit, they display withdrawal symptoms and often relapse,' the researchers said.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has previously suggested that excessive Facebook use could be linked to depression in adolescents and called for more face-to-face interaction. 

'Acceptance by and contact with peers is an important element of adolescent life. The intensity of the online world is thought to be a factor that may trigger depression in some adolescents,' the AAP said in its report The Impact of Social Media Use on Children, Adolescents and Families