It may have come off as harsh for colleges, universities and entire state systems banning the popular TikTok social media app. While the move was made primarily to protect against potential cybersecurity breaches, some leaders may want to consider another benefit of limiting campus social media use.
A new study published by Technology, Mind and Behavior has discovered that limiting students’ social media use to just 30 minutes a day helped significantly reduce anxiety, depression, loneliness and fear of missing out. As a result, students slept better, connected more deeply with those around them and it ultimately led to students adopting a better life outlook.
“I think on the one hand, the results are kind of counterintuitive, right?” said lead author Ella Faulhaber, a doctoral student in human-computer interaction at Iowa State University, according to UPI. “If you talk to many people, they would tell you that social media is how they manage their stress, how they keep themselves entertained, how they stay connected with other people. So, I think the typical perception is that people use social media to cope.”
Of the 230 undergraduate students monitored, researchers asked half to limit their social media use to 30 minutes daily while the other half continued business as usual. The results above suggest to the study’s authors that social media abstinence “may improve psychological well-being in multiple dimensions.”
These results come two weeks after the U.S. Surgeon General testified before a Senate Health, Labor and Pensions Panel advising social media to be given a warning label due to its contribution to youth mental health becoming “the defining public health issue of our time.” Similarly, last month the Department of Education announced almost $100 million in federal funding to strengthen institutions’ supply of mental health counselors across 35 states.
In the face of government support and spending on combatting young Americans’ mental health crisis, limiting social media usage can be the most cost- and resource-effective tactic. Psychiatrist Dr. Howard Liu, chairman of the American Psychiatric Association’s Council on Communications, who reviewed the findings, believed that limiting social media use is a viable practice for mental health therapy prevention. Additionally, less time online opens doors for other preventative measures, such as exercise, mindfulness meditation and connecting with friends and family.
While students admitted to Faulhaber that they had trouble at first disconnecting, their overall life improvements appeared soon after.
“To me, the takeaway is this is definitely doable,” Faulhaber said. “This experiment really shows you that if you try to limit your social media usage, it is effective, and you might actually feel better.”