Taking a "Facebook vacation" reduces stress

Who I am
Joe Dispenza


Does disconnecting from Facebook reduce stress or increase it? Social networks have forcefully entered our lives promising us that we could easily connect with everyone and at any time. Deep down, the implicit promise that seduced us is that we would never be alone again. They promised to erase in one fell swoop the ghost of unwanted loneliness that plagues modern times marked by individualization.

However, social networks have also brought with them some "negative effects" of which no one warned us. Eric Vanman, a professor of psychology at the University of Queensland, realized this. This psychologist acknowledges having been a Facebook user for 10 years but, as the number of friends online increased, he began to feel overwhelmed by social pressure.

Then he began to feel the need to disconnect from the social network for a few days. He immediately felt a feeling of relief, but over time that state turned into an unpleasant feeling that he was missing out on something important. That sensation prompted him to log in again, starting the cycle all over again.

Vanman later spoke to his fellow psychologists about this situation and found that exactly the same thing was happening to them. Therefore they decided to investigate the matter.

Disconnecting from Facebook lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol

The researchers recruited 138 active Facebook users. Half of these were asked to completely abandon Facebook for five days, while the other half continued to use the social network normally.

Participants then had to answer surveys about their life satisfaction, stress levels, mood and loneliness, both before and after the experiment. Their cortisol levels, a physiological indicator of stress, were also analyzed using saliva samples.

Psychologists discovered that the short rest from Facebook had a positive impact on stress levels. These people reported feeling less stressed and cortisol levels actually dropped during the days they didn't join the social network. Interestingly, these people also spent more time with their friends. Conversely, in the group that remained connected to the social network, stress levels remained stable. These findings lead us to ask ourselves: Why does Facebook cause stress?

The ingredients that make Facebook an "explosive cocktail"

- Constant feedback seduces us

This isn't the first study to warn us of the hidden dangers of social networks. On the one hand, there is the problem that social networks provide constant feedback, a continuous stream of updates, comments and “likes” that we become addicted to. This feeds the fear of missing out on what is happening, a phenomenon known as FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), which generates anxiety.

Living thinking about what might happen in the digital world creates an unhealthy state of apprehension rather similar to that experienced during addiction or generalized anxiety.

- Ascending social confrontation destroys us

A study by the University of Cologne adds fuel to the fire. These psychologists have discovered that social networks such as Facebook feed the phenomenon of "ascending social confrontation"; that is, the tendency to compare ourselves with those who "stand above", so that the success of others ends up being a "proof" of their own failure. It is a very dangerous mechanism that fuels envy and the feeling of inferiority.

In this regard, Zygmunt Bauman said that social networks are a trap because they make sure that "the driving force behind behavior is no longer the more or less realistic desire to keep up with our fellow men, but the nebulous idea and maddening, to reach the level of celebrities ”. It is a toxic mixture in which these often unrealistic expectations constantly collide with the hard wall of reality, aggravating the feeling of failure, helplessness and dissatisfaction.

As a result, many people feel inadequate, which creates excessive worries and stress for them. In fact, another experiment conducted at the Benedictine University in Arizona revealed that actually "knowing" a person on Facebook first does not decrease the stress at the moment of the face-to-face meeting but, on the contrary, increases it. These psychologists believe that it is due to the fact that we are confronted with that person, who usually posts an idealized life on the social network, and this creates the feeling of not being up to it.

It is worth clarifying that the phenomenon of comparison is not based only on the images that others publish on social networks, but in an even more perverse mechanism: the number of shares and "likes", something that many take as a direct symbol of level of social acceptance, extroversion and success in life.

Therefore, it's not difficult to join the dots and understand why disconnecting from Facebook can reduce stress and anxiety.


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