Want to sleep better? Just do this one thing.

Quitting Facebook can Boost your Mental Health

There’s a new dangerous global trend in the use of social media. It has to do with those pesky disappearing stories and micro video apps invading your feed and app usage.

Rise of Stories = a Global decline in Messaging

This means for the average social media users, if you use Instagram, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger or Facebook flagship app — you are one of 2.4 Billion MAUs in Facebook’s ecosystem, you are likely also communicating less with real people and consuming more stories and short form videos.

Recent leaks have revealed Facebook undertook a massive lobbying effort to suppress data privacy laws. The documents, which have been seen by the Observer and Computer Weekly, reveal a secretive global lobbying operation targeting hundreds of legislators and regulators in an attempt to procure influence across the world, including in the UK, US, Canada, India, Vietnam, Argentina, Brazil, Malaysia and all 28 states of the EU.

More studies are also showing how even taking a break from Facebook for as little as four weeks, can lower stress, increase subjective well-being and moreover, mean more face-to-face IRL interactions.

Digital Immersion or Life

Social media is constantly evolving and Gen Z (oldest around 23) apparently is much more video and viral meme orientated than news or peer-to-peer orientated in their use of social media. YouTube and new apps like TikTok are gaining momentum among younger Millennials at large as TV and advertising pivot to the new attention ecosystem.

Facebook, which remains by far the largest social media company, has 2.3 billion monthly active users worldwide (Facebook 2018) yet its impact on our mental health is increasingly coming under review.

The Social Media Detox is Real

Less stress. Typically in such studies the measurements of the saliva of the people who gave up Facebook showed that cortisol levels had gone down. If you check your apps more than a few times a day, you are likely to be addicted to digital dopamine, that could be stealing time away from your real life and relationships.

  • People who gave up Facebook spent less time online
  • Their Facebook time isn’t necessarily just replaced by other apps
  • Facebook Quitters do relegate their leisure time to watching YouTube, or streaming, but also more time with family and friends.
  • For our Mental health, this added time with family, friends and new relationships could be give people a huge boost in subjective-well-being.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg chats during a break in his congressional testimony. Getty Images

Giving up Facebook improved people’s mental health.

The social disconnect of being off Facebook needs to be balanced with new strategies to connecting with people in real life like joining new groups, volunteering and good old-fashioned ways of living to the fullest and connecting with local events, experiences, communities and new people!

A study conducted in 2015 found that quitting Facebook seemed to make people happier, while it also might be interfering with our sleep patterns. This pattern of app addiction and social media leading to a reduced quality of sleep is a big deal for our mental health and for young people generally.

  • Active users of Facebook and social media or micro video apps could actually be more at risk to mental health complaints.
  • Read the paper here on welfare effects of social media.
  • Facebook’s lobbying efforts against privacy regulation and mental health awareness of its usage, points to a disturbing paradigm of how behavioral advertising is now pivoting to something I call surveillance capitalism.
  • Companies like Apple, Google, Microsoft and Facebook have all recently become more aware of the mental health harm their products can do upon us and our mental health and put vulnerable populations at risk. The scandal of comments on Children YouTube content is a good example of this.

Alternative Communication Apps

There are plenty of alternatives to WhatsApp. With ByteDance’s apps such as TikTok winning in India over Instagram, it appears WhatsApp and a centralized communication system by Facebook is Facebook’s last frontier of global monopoly. But there are “better” and more private communication apps alternatives to WhatsApp.

  • Snapchat
  • Telegram
  • Signal
  • WeChat
  • Line
  • KakaoTalk
  • And so many others

In 2019 replacing Netflix or YouTube would for many of us be a bigger deal than replacing Facebook’s products. I’m not sure many of us would go crazy but not having access to Instagram, would we?

Drew Angerer / Getty

Building a Life after Apps: getting a goodnight’s sleep

If you don’t see yourself leaving Facebook’s ecosystem, you can also try to take more vacations and breaks from social media.

When research the Journal of Social Psychology starts to publish research suggesting quitting Facebook is good for our mental health, in an era where technology is actually disrupting our sleep and mental health things have suddenly gotten a bit more serious.

Facebook is an advertising and behavioral targeting platform first, and a social utility second. It can never primarily be used for social good, when its ad-revenue and profits are its chief preoccupation.

As consumers however we can choose what’s best for us, not just for our mental health but for our relationships. As Millennials have grown up and started families they are spending less time on Facebook’s products, and now Gen Z are starting to be more mental health literate about the impact of apps on their sleep and face-to-face time with friends, family and significant others.

Have you thought of quitting Facebook’s products? Do you have a story to tell on how social media has impacted your mental health in the past? What are your favorite messaging apps outside of Facebook’s ecosystem and why?