Social networks: why taking a break can make us happier

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Instagram, Facebook, TikTok: social networks, as we know, are now virtual places where we spend a lot of our time.

The scrollingthat is the habit of picking up the smartphone and scrolling through social networks, has become for many of us a almost automatic gesture that we do without thinking too much and, very often, without giving any importance to the effect it can generate on our psyche.

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Yet the consequences in terms of Welfare they are by no means negligible. An example? Could just one week off from social networks is enoughfor reduce our anxiety levels and depression.

It was recently demonstrated by one study conducted by a team of researchers from the University of Bath (United Kingdom). The investigation, which was aimed precisely at studying the mental health effects that the decision to take a week’s break from social media could have, was conducted on a sample of 154 individuals aged between 18 and 72 years. Some participants were asked to stop using all social media for a week or reduce their use to a few minutes, while others, the so-called control group, were allowed to use it as they used to. To establish the levels of anxiety, depression and well-beingAt the start of the study, the researchers assigned baseline scores.

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The results, published in the US journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networkinghave shown how a single week of absence from social networks improve the general level of well-being of individuals. Participants who were asked to take a week off were showing significant improvements in well-being, depression and anxiety compared to those who continued to use social media, suggesting a short-term benefit. Specifically, in terms of well-being, the group that had suspended the use of social media recorded 4.9 points more than the others, while the levels of depression and anxiety had dropped by 2.2 points and 1.7 points.

“Browsing social media is such a common habit that many of us do it almost without thinking, from the moment we wake up to when we go to sleep. – explained the lead researcher of the Bath Department of Health Dr. Jeff Lambert – there are though growing concerns about the effects it may have on mental health, so with this study we wanted to see if simply asking people to take a week off would be beneficial. Many of our attendees have reported positive effects by avoiding social media with improved mood and less anxiety in general. This suggests that even a small pause can have an impact“.

But where does our obsession with social media come from? And why can taking a break be so difficult?

“In the meantime, the survey confirms what we unfortunately expected and what previous research had suggested: that is, that mental health certainly does not improve with the smartphone and with the use of social networks” – explains the Professor Giuseppe Lavenia, Psychologist, Psychotherapist and President National Association of Technological Addictions – And the reasons are different. First of all we have to think about the speed with which new technologies have forcefully imposed themselves in our lives: many, especially adults, were not ready and this has already exposed us to a risk ».

Social network: underlying a mechanism of dependence, including physical

“Often we do not know the real functioning of social networks that can lead to compulsive mechanisms – continues Professor Lavenia – Social networks and messaging services are based on reward systemthat is, on a neurophysiological process based on dopaminea neurotransmitter that is activated every time we are waiting for a response. Whenever we post and wait for a comment, a like or a reaction, this wait produces a release of dopamine. The result? Our mind ends up associating something positive with something that is not positive. Knowing this is important because this mechanism also creates a physical dependence, a process similar to that activated with gambling or cocaine. And that’s why it becomes compulsive. This explains why we can’t not look at the notifications and to detach ourselves: why we come to need that dopamine ‘hit’ “.

Even if we don’t realize it, social networks can then generate one in us state of anxiety for several reasons.

«On the one hand, physical dependence it also involves abstinence and a consequent state of anxiety but not only – explains the psychologist – i new social networks are based on visual impacton the body that is exposed: this ends up with generate comparison with each otherthe fear of not being up to par and a whole series of difficulties that inevitably generate anxiety ».

Social networks also offer us the illusion of feeling closer to others, always connected with people, when in reality they end up isolate us.

«Another element that generates anxiety is to arrive to live relationships within social networks and then be afraid to test yourself and having experiences with people in the flesh – Professor Lavenia specifies – you get to be so used to managing relationships online that afterwards you can have great difficulty managing them outside. This is especially true for adolescents ».

How much time do we spend on social networks?

According to the most recent data, an adult spends an average of 8/10 hours a day on the web, or almost half a day. Even our posture is affected: it has been defined tech neck syndrome, the ache level cervicalwith symptoms ranging from headache to the feeling of back contracture, linked to the daily use of technology, primarily smartphones, on which we check notifications and messages.

Paradoxically, even in the company of other people, we fall into the trap of estranging ourselves to watch social networks.

“What was supposed to be social has become antisocial – specifies the psychotherapist – A fact that should make us reflect? When a notification arrives while we are with an interlocutor in flesh and blood, it takes us 64 seconds to regain concentration about what we were doing or listening to. This means that if we get 5 messages, we lose 5 minutes of conversation with whoever stands in front of us ».

The alarm bells not to be underestimated

It goes without saying that being able to take a break from social media, as demonstrated also on a scientific level, can only do us good, especially if we realize that the use of Instagram, Facebook or the like is getting out of hand. The alarm bells?

«If you start to prefer online life to offline lifeif you end up with neglect study or work and the social relationships begin to suffer it is appropriate to stop and reflect – Professor Lavenia points out – in general, everything that leads to limit significant aspects of your life it is to be understood as a wake-up call not to be ignored ».

Social networks: how to take a break?

Having established that taking a break from social media would allow us to live better, what strategies can we adopt for limit its use or, at the very least, to learn a use social media in a conscious way?

«First of all we have to learn a give us precise rules – concludes Professor Lavenia – rules that must apply both to us and to our children: we cannot prevent them from using their mobile phones or being on social media when we are the first to do so. A useful strategy can be that of carve out a detox activity once a week leaving your smartphone at home. And then again, at lunch and dinner, mobile phones are absolutely forbidden. Also establish the time when the smartphone turns on and off it can be useful: for example, in the morning never before breakfast and in the evening, from 9pm to the maximum, remove notifications to avoid staying glued to social networks until late ».

Other stories of Vanity Fair that may interest you

All “experts” on social media? Blame the Dunning-Kruger effect, as neuroscience explains

Challenges aimed at adolescents: the risks of online challenges and how to prevent them

Source: Vanity Fair

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