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A little break from social media can have surprising health benefits

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Social media is not the healthiest of leisure activities; I can confirm that personally. Apart from plenty of independent research that has established a clear link between social media use and a worsening mental health graph, leading to depression and anxiety, false trends and rampant misinformation are known to induce self-harm among users.

To make matters worse, social media platforms don’t make it any easier. Algorithms rely on the addictive aspect of online content consumption and try to keep users connected with an endless barrage of interest-based recommendations. For many users, this translates to endless hours of being idle and scrolling at their phone screens.

Cartoon characters connected to their phones.

But it seems that cutting back on your daily social media time is not only good for your mental health, but for your physical well-being as well. Published in the Journal of Technology in Behavioral Science, new research from Swansea University indicates that reducing time spent browsing social media by no more than 15 minutes provides a measurable improvement in physical health.

As part of the research, experts from Swansea University’s School of Medicine and Health Sciences asked participants between the ages of 20 and 25 to submit weekly reports on their physical and psychological health after reducing their activity on social media. Users who followed the suggestion reported “an average of 15% improvement in immune function, including fewer colds, flu, warts, and warts.”

Works better than expected

Using the Twitter app on the Xiaomi 13 Pro.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Most people go into their social media binge sessions in seated scenarios, such as lying on a bed or sofa. So, can we conclude that by decreasing social media use, people spent that time on another activity or giving their bodies more rest, and that contributed to their physical health — right?

“It is a reasonable assumption that reducing social media use allows for other activities to be undertaken, which may be more healthy. We don’t really know that; that may be the case, or the effects The effect of improved health can be from reducing the stress associated with not using social media,” he adds. “Allowing them to be free to choose what they are going to do with their extra time is more effective.”

In addition to improving physical health, the participants who reduced their activity on social media also reported a 50% improvement in the quality of their sleep and a 30% decrease in depressive symptoms. In fact, the test was so effective that people who were asked to reduce their social media time by 15 minutes each day actually ended up reducing their social media exposure by about 40 minutes.

Some rogue behavior, too

Black and white image of cartoon characters looking at their phones.

When asked if this was the first study of its kind to assess a link between reduced social media use and physical health, Professor Reed answered in the affirmative. “I think this is the first study of its kind to establish a clear link between reducing social media use and physical well-being. Many others have looked at the effect of reducing social media use on psychological well-being, but not on physical well-being,” he told Digital Trends.

However, one aspect remains unresolved – establishing a direct relationship between social media use and health issues, or whether changes in well-being variables, such as depression, or other factors (such as increased physical activity), are the factors motivating positive changes. . What is certain is that the net effect is positive.

The study was conducted over a period of three months, and also came to a surprising conclusion. According to the research, telling people to reduce their screen time on social media to a set duration and to spend that time on other activities had the opposite effect. This group ended up increasing their social media browsing time by a margin greater than the recommended reduction.

So, at the end of the day, here’s the epilogue. Reducing your social media consumption by as small a package as 15 minutes may lead to “less reliance on social media and improved overall health and immune function, as well as less loneliness and depression.”

An abridged version of the study can be read on the Swansea University website, while the full research paper is also available.

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