Researchers Say This 30-Minute Tweak To Your Social Media Habit Can Boost Mental Health

Over the last decade, social media usage around the globe has steadily climbed. In 2012, people spent an average of 90 minutes on social networking platforms daily (via Statista). Now, in 2022, this number has increased to an average of 147 minutes spent scrolling per day. While social media can be a great way to share creative projects or stay in touch with loved ones, research has linked social media usage to mental health issues, as well as physical health problems, reports McLean Hospital.

However, we don't necessarily need to swear off social media entirely. A new 2022 longitudinal study published in the Journal of Public Health found that even just slightly curbing our social media habits can have a significant positive impact on our physical and emotional well-being. The study involved over 640 active social media users in Germany. Over the course of 14 days, participants underwent one of four scenarios. A total of 162 participants in the social media group shaved 30 minutes off their daily time spent on social media. Meanwhile, 161 individuals in the physical activity group engaged in 30 additional minutes of exercise per day, but did not alter their social media usage. In the combination group, 159 participants reduced their social media time and increased their exercise time, while the control group was not issued any instructions.

The impact of exercise and reduced screen time

Over the course of six months, participants self-reported data pertaining to their social media usage, exercise habits, quality of life, presence of depressive symptoms, overall happiness, smoking habits, and more (via ScienceDaily). Those in the social media group, as well as those in the physical activity group, both experienced mental health benefits. However, the combination group showed to have the greatest benefits, with participants reporting increased life satisfaction, overall happiness, and reduced depressive symptoms.

Even more, findings showed that individuals in all three experimental groups continued to engage in these habits in the months following the study (per ScienceDaily). Participants continued to maintain their reduced social media usage, with the combination group seeing an average decrease of 45 minutes. In addition, half a year after the experiment, the combination group had increased their average weekly exercise time by over an hour and a half.

"This shows us how vital it is to reduce our availability online from time to time and to go back to our human roots," leader of the study Dr. Julia Brailovskaia was quoted via ScienceDaily. "These measures can be easily implemented into one's everyday life and they're completely free — and, at the same time, they help us to stay happy and healthy in the digital age."