Students Report Less Depression and Consume Less News After a Week Abstinence from Facebook

To comprehend the effects of Facebook on users, a survey was carried out by five scholars, namely – Roberto Mosquera, Mofioluwasademi Odunowo, Trent McNamara, Xiongfei Guo, and Ragan Petrie.

Why it Matters

The 2017 survey was conducted among 1769 A&M undergraduates with the aim of getting them to judge the worth of a week of Facebook use. These undergraduates were placed into two divisions –those who were restricted from using Facebook and those who weren’t restricted. After a week, they were asked to reassign a financial worth on Facebook.

The results of this survey titled “The economic effects of Facebook,” would shock you!

Note: For the sake of this post, we’ll refer to the participants, who were restricted from Facebook use, as group X and those who were given access to Facebook (for at least 1.9hours daily) as Group Y.

Digging Deeper

The social experiment, which lasted for 7 days, revealed the downsides of Facebook usage and dispelled some popular rumors. Below are the results of the survey:

  • Group X reported less depression: Candidates who got rid of Facebook for a week experienced less depression and more healthy choices. For instance, Group X members saw little or no reasons to eat out, purchase unnecessary items or waste their time on frivolous activities. According to the researchers, “Our results suggest that using Facebook induces feelings of depression,”
  • The restriction had no effect on the news awareness of Group X candidates: Candidates were subjected to a news quiz before and after the experiment. The quiz requires each candidate to decipher whether the news headlines given them were true or false. The researchers compiled headlines from the homepage of the eleven most read newspapers as reported by the Pew Research Center, namely – The New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, LA Times, New York Daily News, New York Post, Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle, The Chicago Tribune, and The British Daily Mail. In addition to the eleven news platforms, Breitbart was used to source for skewed news. Getting rid of Facebook did not affect the candidates’ chances of getting the quiz right. In fact, Group X participants were uncertain whether the Breibart skewed stories occurred or not. According to the researchers, “those who experienced a week off Facebook [were] 22.1 percentage points more likely to be uncertain about whether or not politically-skewed news headlines [were real].
  • Candidates did not replace the news they should be reading on Facebook with traditional agencies: The absence of Facebook did not spur candidates to seek news elsewhere. According to the report,  “On average, participants in the Facebook restriction group significantly decrease their consumption of news by 0.64 standard deviations with respect to the baseline (p value < 0.05), and this effect is consistent across all news types”
  • Group X participants placed more financial value on facebook: the one-week restriction did not incite any hatred for Facebook, despite self-reporting the benefits of abstinence. In fact, they were glad to get back on Facebook.

Bottom Line:

The major reason for depression is not clear. It might be due to the peer pressure people feel when using Facebook or the exposure to more news. Either way, we can infer that the use of Facebook is not disconnected from depression and access to news.

Author: Miracle Oyedeji – State of Digital Publishing

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