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Taking it offline: A week away from Facebook can increase happiness, study reveals

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We’ve been hearing a lot about the pitfalls of social media of late, but now, science has confirmed it: staying away from the ‘reality distorting’ Facebook is likely to increase your happiness.

A study conducted by researchers in Denmark has revealed that even as little as a week away from the social networking site could increase life satisfaction and significantly reduce stress.

Scientists from the Danish Happiness Research Institute divided a group of 1,095 daily Facebook users, aged from 16-76, into two groups, where one group was given access to the site and the other switched-off completely for a week.

“Facebook is a constant bombardment of everyone else’s great news, but many of us look out of the window and see grey skies and rain (especially in Denmark!),” Meik Wiking, CEO of the Institute, tells The Guardian. “This makes the Facebook world, where everyone’s showing their best side, seem even more distortedly bright by contrast, so we wanted to see what happened when users took a break.”

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Participants who abstained from Facebook for a week reported increased happiness and reduced stress

Prior and following the experiment, participants were asked to rate their “life satisfaction” out of 10, and commented on how active their social lives were, how good they felt their concentration was and if they compared themselves to others. 

The resulting report, The Facebook Experiment: Does social media affect the quality of our lives? revealed that 55% of the group who abstained from the site reported feeling less stressed after the week was over. Additionally, 88% of the group described themselves as ‘happy’, compared with 81% of the other group.

Those who abstained from Facebook also reported higher life appreciation, richer social lives and fewer difficulties in concentration, than those who continued to check their newsfeeds.

Sophie Anne Dornoy, 35, says in the report that, prior to the study, she was checking Facebook every morning the second she woke up, but that after a few days abstaining, she noticed:

“My to-do list was getting done faster than normal as I spent my time more productively. I also felt a sort of calmness from not being confronted by Facebook all the time.”

“It felt good to know that the world doesn’t end without Facebook and that people are still able to reach you,” she says.

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Fun can still be had away from social media

Another participant, Stine Chen, 26, says that:

“My flatmates and I had to chat instead of just checking Facebook.” 

Wiking says that the results reveal (as we all suspected), that comparing ourselves to others on social media leads to increased dissatisfaction.

“Facebook distorts our perception of reality and of what other people’s lives really look like,” he tells The Local.

“We take in to account how we’re doing in life through comparisons to everyone else, and since most people only post positive things on Facebook, that gives us a very biased perception of reality.” 

“If we are constantly exposed to great news, we risk evaluating our own lives as less good.”

Wiking doesn't deny that Facebook has its positive benefits, but believes that the site “Shouldn’t be used as the background for evaluating our lives.”

The Danish scientists are hoping to find participants to take part in a yearlong break from the site, “but we’d have to see how many volunteers we get for that,” Wiking tells The Guardian

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