Many have already been tempted to leave the social network. But what would happen to their psychological state if this were to materialize? To figure out the answer, researchers at Stanford University conducted a study with hundreds of users. And the result is intriguing.
Released last month, the research focused on the participants’ mental health. Some volunteers, and others received cash compensation. The researchers asked the participants to leave the social network for a month. So that they could observe and analyze the consequences.
(Image: Reproduction / The Conversation)
The most evident changes were the following:
- They spent less time online. Since they did not replace Facebook by another social network or application.
- They spent more time with family and close friends.
- There was not much awareness of the political scene. But they perceived more tolerance.
- There was a claim that they were “feeling better”.
- The study reinforced an old hypothesis that social networking would only benefit overly active users.
In addition, many claimed to be planning to use less – or not return to – Facebook after the study.
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The Recode news portal contacted one of the study’s authors, Matthew Gentzkow. He is a professor of economics at Stanford University. They discussed the results of the experiment with him. For the researcher, the lack of consumption of news and content related to politics was what made users less polarized. And, as a consequence, more tolerant. “People’s aggressive posture is very much linked to how engaged they are. […] For many, being on Facebook means reading more, consuming more, discussing more. And this is not the fault of the social network algorithm, “he said.
(Picture: Playback / CNET)
The professor also speculates that the reason for the social network to create a more hostile environment than any other may be the “social bubbles”. “Liberals and conservatives are much more likely to consume the same television channels, magazines, or news portals who are friends on Facebook”, he said, highlighting the ideological segregation that the site caused.
On the considerable reduction of political engagement of the participants, Gentzkow asks, “Is not it better that we have people who know less, less engaged, but who are more humorous?”. Defining the collateral effect as inevitable, the researcher does not know how to define the extent to which access to information is harmless.
Matthew Gentzkow (Image: Press Release)
When they received the proposal to give up the social network, many did not accept it for free. “Several people asked for up to $ 100. Others have asked for values much higher than that, “the professor said. And he added that “There were also responses like ‘you can not afford enough to get me off Facebook’.”
Finally, Gentzkow said he could not say whether Facebook is really harmful to society. But there is no doubt that some users are overly stuck to the social network.