Social media platforms such as Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook have become ubiquitous in student life in 2019. As a result, eliminating social media use altogether is nearly impossible, especially considering the medium’s impact on our social and professional lives. On the other hand, overuse of social media can lead to addiction and depression. So how much social media is a healthy amount?
Experts have recommended 30 minutes or less per day as the maximum time you should spend on social media. According to a 2018 study published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, limiting use to 30 minutes a day can lead to better health outcomes.
In addition to monitoring the total time you spend on social media each day, you should also evaluate why you’re spending time on social media. Many use social media to communicate with friends and family and to read news articles. In moderation, these are healthy activities. If you are using social media to communicate non-productively, watch videos solely for entertainment as opposed to education and obsess over and compare your social life to that of your peers, this can be unhealthy.
Remember that many people post a filtered version of themselves on public platforms, so don’t necessarily assume their life is better or fuller than yours based on their social media posts.
According to a “Science in The News” blog post by Trevor Haynes, social media platforms “leverage the same neural circuitry used by slot machines and cocaine to keep users using their products as much as possible.”
Knowing why social media is addictive can help students avoid falling into the trap of overuse. Using social media 30 minutes or less a day is an excellent guideline, but how much is healthy for you depends on your personal circumstance. If you are currently spending three hours a day on social media, a practical strategy would be to reduce your time spent on social media by 30 minutes per week to gradually reach a more healthy amount. Similar to many other addictive behaviors, the key to avoiding an unhealthy amount of social media is to ensure you remain the master of the medium, not the other way around.
Good News: There might be a sweet spot when it comes to the amount of time you spend on social media.
Keeping your use down to just 30 minutes a day can lead to better mental health outcomes, according to research being published in December in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology.
When study volunteers cut down their social media use to 30 minutes per day total, they experienced a “significant improvement in well-being,” exhibiting reduced loneliness and depression, the authors wrote. Anxiety and FOMO decreased in both groups, which researchers said could be due to increased self-monitoring during the experiment portion of the study.
“It is a little ironic that reducing your use of social media actually makes you feel less lonely,” lead study author Melissa Hunt told ScienceDaily. “Some of the existing literature on social media suggests there’s an enormous amount of social comparison that happens. When you look at other people’s lives, particularly on Instagram, it’s easy to conclude that everyone else’s life is cooler or better than yours.”
All that aside, there is something to be said for limiting social media while still being realistic about the fact that you’re never going to ditch it entirely. Research has shown that excessive Facebook use can contribute to increased depression and loneliness, and a 2014 study found that social media use can create social comparison, which can lead to lower self-esteem.
Bottom line: We can all benefit from a little break. The marriage status updates, dog filters, sarcastic tweets and food porn photos will still be there when we go back.