True cost of ‘free’ Facebook revealed
A study of students at a Texas university has found those who gave up Facebook for just one week saved money and were less depressed, but were also less likely to do it again.
The research, involving students from Texas A&M, had some students give up the social media site while others continued as usual.
The researchers banned users from logging onto Facebook or using any of its associated apps, such as Messenger, monitoring their compliance through the "Last Active" timestamp on the social media site.
They were also asked to place a value on Facebook usage, with the average value being $67 per week.
The researchers defined this as around 30 per cent of a student's average weekly income, the same percentage you can spend on your rent or mortgage before you technically qualify as being under "housing stress" (when your income is in the bottom 40 per cent).
But at the end of the study, the researchers found that the value students placed on using Facebook actually increased by almost 20 per cent after not using it for a week, suggesting an addiction-like relationship that's compounded by a lack of information.
The study also found those who went off Facebook consumed less news content, but were still aware of what was the "mainstream media" were talking about.
The researchers said this suggests Facebook is a vital distribution platform for "non-mainstream" outlets, whether for good or ill.
While the study showed using Facebook had "no significant effect" on overall life satisfaction, the students who went off the social media site for a week reported they had fewer feelings of depression, a reduction of around 17 per cent.
This was particularly notable in the men who participated, and suggests that "using Facebook induces feelings of depression", according to the study.
One potential reason for this is that without Facebook to occupy them, the students engaged in healthier behaviours that put them in a better mood.
Overall, the researchers said the study showed getting off Facebook led to "decreased feelings of depression and increased engagement in healthier activities".
"While we are not able to pinpoint the exact mechanism, these results suggest that Facebook can negatively affect components of daily life that go beyond any existing benefits of social media," the researchers reported.
The research was published in the Economic Science Association's journal of Experimental Economics.
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