Skip to Content
Silicon Valley

Here’s how you’ll feel if you quit Facebook for a month

January 31, 2019

Quitting Facebook makes people happier and less informed about politics, but less partisan, too, according to new research.

A paradox: Despite near-constant data misuse scandals emanating from Facebook over the past year, there’s little evidence people are choosing to switch off their accounts entirely. However, a new study suggests it might be worth considering giving it a go, even temporarily.

The study: The researchers from Stanford University and New York University recruited a group of 2,488 people who use Facebook for on average an hour a day. They randomly assigned half of them to turn off their accounts for four weeks during the run-up to the midterm elections last year. In return they were paid $102, a value in line with previous studies of Facebook’s “worth” to users. The subjects were regularly asked to log their mood via text messages from researchers, who verified that they were indeed keeping their accounts inactive.  

The findings: The “quitter” group experienced a number of effects. First, they spent more time with their friends and family. They didn’t fill the spare time on other social-media platforms, instead choosing to spend more of that time watching TV. They were also noticeably happier than the control group. They were less informed about news, but also less politically polarized. And they also chose to spend less time on Facebook once the study was over.

The response? The study itself found plenty of anecdotal data showing Facebook produces large benefits for its users. “Any discussion of social media’s downsides should not obscure the basic fact that it fulfills deep and widespread needs,” the researchers write. But there’s no ignoring another central finding: “People learned that they enjoy life without Facebook more than they had anticipated.”

For more stories like this, sign up for our daily newsletter, The Download.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

Large language models can do jaw-dropping things. But nobody knows exactly why.

And that's a problem. Figuring it out is one of the biggest scientific puzzles of our time and a crucial step towards controlling more powerful future models.

The problem with plug-in hybrids? Their drivers.

Plug-in hybrids are often sold as a transition to EVs, but new data from Europe shows we’re still underestimating the emissions they produce.

How scientists traced a mysterious covid case back to six toilets

When wastewater surveillance turns into a hunt for a single infected individual, the ethics get tricky.

Google DeepMind’s new generative model makes Super Mario–like games from scratch

Genie learns how to control games by watching hours and hours of video. It could help train next-gen robots too.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.