Researchers at Ruhr University Bochum and the German Center for Mental Health, Germany, found that refraining from social media gave people more time to do their job and thus suffered less from divided attention.
“Our brains can’t cope well with constant distraction from a task,” explained Julia Brailovskaia, author of the study published in the journal ‘Behaviour and Information Technology’.
“People who frequently stop what they’re doing in order to catch up on their social media feed find it more difficult to focus on their work and they achieve poorer results,” said Brailovskaia.
For the study, the research team recruited 166 people, all of them employed and spending at least 35 minutes a day on non-work-related social media use.
They were divided into two groups – one did not change their social media habits, while the other reduced the time spent on social networks by 30 minutes a day for seven days.
The participants were asked to respond to questionnaires before the start of the experiment, the day after it began and one week later, providing information about their workload, job satisfaction, commitment, mental health, stress levels, FOMO and behaviours indicating addictive social media use.
“Even after this short period of time, we found that the group that spent 30 minutes less a day on social media significantly improved their job satisfaction and mental health,” said Brailovskaia.
The effects lasted for at least a week after the end of the experiment and in some cases even improved in the period, the researchers said.
“We suspect that people tend to use social networks to generate positive emotions that they’re missing in their everyday working lives, especially when they are feeling overworked,” said Brailovskaia.
“In addition, some platforms such as LinkedIn also offer the opportunity to look for new jobs if you’re unhappy with your current role,” she said.
The researchers said that while in the short-term, escaping from reality into the world of social networks may indeed improve one’s mood, in the long-term, such habits can lead to addictive behaviour that has the opposite effect.