In recent years, we’ve seen a lot of moral panic about the use of social media, from fears of mass political manipulation with the Cambridge Analytica scandal to claims that too much time on Facebook and Instagram can mess with your mental health.
Some leading intellectuals, like Silicon Valley ‘computer philosopher’ Jaron Lanier, even argue that we should give up social media completely.
“The algorithm is trying to capture the perfect parameters for manipulating a brain, while the brain, in order to seek out deeper meaning, is changing in response to the algorithm’s experiments,” he writes in his book Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now. “Because the stimuli from the algorithm doesn’t mean anything, because they genuinely are random, the brain isn’t responding to anything real, but to a fiction. That process – of becoming hooked on an elusive mirage – is addiction.”
But is there a happy middle ground where we can enjoy the benefits of Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter without falling down the rabbit hole?
How much social media is too much?
A new study from researchers at the University of Pennsylvania has suggested the ideal amount of time we should devote to social media scrolling every day: just 30 minutes.
The research, published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, looked at social media use among 143 undergraduate students ages 18 to 22 in two separate trials and found that limiting social media to half an hour per day can lead to improved mental health.
“The limited use group showed significant reductions in loneliness and depression over three weeks compared to the control group,” according to the study’s abstract.
“[Participants] showed significant decreases in anxiety and fear of missing out over baseline, suggesting a benefit of increased self-monitoring.”
The researchers, therefore, suggest that we could all benefit from cutting down on our scrolling.
“Our findings strongly suggest that limiting social media use to approximately 30 minutes per day may lead to significant improvement in well-being.”
“It is a little ironic that reducing your use of social media actually makes you feel less lonely,” lead study author Melissa Hunt told ScienceDaily. “Some of the existing literature on social media suggests there’s an enormous amount of social comparison that happens. When you look at other people’s lives, particularly on Instagram, it’s easy to conclude that everyone else’s life is cooler or better than yours.”
So back away from Tumblr, put down your Pinterest and try going outside and speaking to people, dude. You might even enjoy it.
(Images: Stanislav Kondratiev on Unsplash / Getty)