New Research Prescribes a New Healthy Amount of Time to Spend On Social Media Each Day

If you own a smartphone, it takes just a little bit of digging to learn just how much you view social media. The number might surprise you, considering that little mobile device is never further away from you than your hip pocket or nightstand.

If it’s an iPhone, for example, simply go into your settings, scroll down to “Battery,” and look at the little bar graph as you scroll. There should be a list of apps under that bar graph and if you toggle between the settings “Show Activity” and “Show Battery Usage,” you’ll notice those apps are organized by what percentages (or actual hours and minutes) are spent on any particular app or feature within your phone in the past 24 hours.

Take a minute to do all that and then feel free to come back and continue reading this article…

For most people, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, and any other social media application are likely toward the top of those lists. And just maybe seeing how many hours and minutes you’ve spent in the past day on those social media pages has you a little disappointed in yourself. If you’re not disappointed, then here’s a bit of perspective: That’s the amount of your day that was given to looking at your friends’ posed vacation photos, baby pics, engagement announcements, disingenuous motivational quotes. If that feels like valuable time spent, new research actually has a prescribed number of minutes (yes, minutes) you can and should healthily give to this activity each day. If you consistently run over, your mental health may hang in the balance, they say. In fact, the title of their research findings that are going to be published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology make the message pretty clear: “Limiting Social Media Decreases Loneliness and Depression.”

To be exact, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania now say that keeping your social media viewing and usage time down to just 30 minutes can lead to better mental health outcomes. Those researchers analyzed the social media usage of 143 undergraduate students in two separate trials, one in the spring and another a few months later when fall began. Observing the behavior and use of Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat for a week, researchers gauged the students’ mental health based on social support, fear of missing out, loneliness, self-acceptance, self-esteem, anxiety, and depression. Once that first round of observations was completed, they then broke the students into groups for a separate three-week study. One of those groups was told to continue using their social media as they wished and the other was instructed to use each platform for just 10 minutes each per day. They then went back and graded the students once more on the same seven different mental health factors.

The group whose social media use was controlled and limited displayed significant improvement in well being, according to the results, with reduced feelings of loneliness and depression.

“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.”

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