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Leaving Facebook makes people happier but less informed, study says

There around 2.3 billion Facebook users around the world – a statistic that is not at all surprising given the fact that the platform serves a variety of purposes. Facebook is the way for most people to connect with friends, to access news and entertainment, and for businesses to market their products and find new customers.

However, according to new research, despite the benefits reaped from using Facebook, leaving it might actually be good for your emotional being – but there is one catch.

Researchers at New York University and Stanford University looked at what happened to people who deactivated their Facebook accounts. The researchers paid people $102 to turn-off their accounts for four weeks.

The people who didn’t have access to their Facebook accounts reported feeling happier without it. As if having a domino effect, these same people also reported being less active online and using other social media sites less while they were Facebook-free. After a month, it was found that the subjects were also less polarized politically, however, the downside is that they became less-informed about factual news.

The subjects said that they had about an hour of additional free time a day while their accounts were deactivated. Once the experiment was over, the majority chose to reactivate their Facebook accounts, though most of them continued to lessen their usage.

According to associate professor at NYU and one of the researchers in the study Hunt Alcott, participants in the study said that Facebook is important to them and that it is a positive thing in their lives. The subjects said that they are also willing to receive $100 month in exchange for deactivating their Facebook accounts for four weeks.

“That starkly quantifies how important it is,” Allcott told CNN Business.

The researchers emphasized that the results of the study are neither pro- nor anti-Facebook. Their point is that they want people to be aware of how they are using social media. In fact, the study also found that Facebook “produces large benefits for its users,” such as being a source of entertainment, a place to socialize, and a way to be active in communities. According to a spokesperson, the study is one of many on the topic but the findings regarding the benefits are “encouraging.”

“Our teams have been working hard on these issues,” the spokesperson said. “We’ve introduced several new tools so people can take greater control of their experience and made product updates to increase the number of meaningful conversations and connections people have on Facebook.”

Alcott said that this study is significant because it is the largest randomized study on the giant social media platform.

“Previous research mostly looked at correlation: How much do you use Facebook and how depressed are you?” Allcott said. “These studies show that people who use Facebook more are more depressed, but the problem is correlation doesn’t create causation. We didn’t know if Facebook was making people depressed or depressed people were retreating into Facebook.”

The fear of missing out is an all too familiar scenario, especially for those people who have taken a social media detox at least once in their lives. But since Facebook has become, for most people, the most efficient avenue for communication, it is easy to understand why so many just couldn’t seem to get it off their system. But for the sake of being “happier” sans Facebook – which this specific study proves, would you be willing to deactivate and sign off from it for a while?

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