What awaits those who take a break from Facebook? – More happiness and a better social life. The Happiness Research Institute, an independent Danish institute that deals with welfare, quality of life and happiness, led a Facebook Experiment, an experiment to assess the impact of the most crowded social network on users’ lives.


using mobile phone

The study was conducted in Denmark on 1095 people divided into two groups randomly. In one of the two groups, the participants were asked not to use Facebook for a week. Before and after these seven days, the participants completed a questionnaire, which evaluated their lives in many ways.

In the sample the use of Facebook was significant: 94% of participants used it every day, more than 86% use it often or very often, and 78% used it for at least half an hour a day. How can a period away from Facebook change the perception of oneself and the quality of life? The level of perceived satisfaction increased (on a scale from 1 to 10) from 7,56 to 8,12. Among those who remained connected, however, the increase in satisfaction was more modest (from 7.67 to 7.75).


Not using Facebook makes one feel happier

This is the portrait of people who had to spend a week without Facebook: they were happier, less worried, more excited, less depressed, less lonely and more resolute. They also benefited from a better social life, which was more satisfying and contributed to an increase in concentration. People also felt that they wasted time using Facebook.

Data from the Facebook Experiment also showed how Facebook is a tool that stimulates social envy: 5 out of 10 people felt envy for the incredible experiences of others, 1 out of 3 for others’ happiness and 4 out of 10 for their apparent success.


Facebook can become an engine for social envy?

“What is striking is the identification of envy as a link between abstinence from Facebook and perceived well-being. Envy is indeed the feeling that can bring an aspect of destructiveness. It is the most difficult to admit, but certainly present, in varying quantities in all of us. What makes the difference is always the measure,” answers Dr. Katia Rastelli, a psychologist from the department for Bariatric Surgery at Humanitas hospital.

“Being a little jealous means becoming competitive to get what you want, while being pathologically envious means to spoil social and emotional relations because you feel you would never measure up and wish that others lose what they have to decrease the distance between you and them. In this sense, Facebook becomes an arena of impossible and risky competition for the really jealous. For some people it means to put salt on an open wound, a low basic self-esteem, enough to change the level of perceived quality of life until real depression sets in.”


How to avoid “Facebook envy”?

“To live as much as possible in a space of real relationships. Meeting different people from us, with problems common to all, allows us to resize our ideals. It is so nice to find that, in the end, even the person who seemed so perfect and brilliant may have difficulties at times! Like us and everyone else.”


Is there anyone with an increased risk for envy?

“In addition to those who give and have little value in themselves, there are the teenagers. Teenagers need to build their adult personality even by comparison with others. If this happens, most of the time in a virtual context, they can develop fake identities, images adorned with Photoshop, and ostentatious bodies, we understand how great the associated risks may be. However, one should be careful not to demonize the tool itself. Facebook, like all new technologies, opens new horizons of communication, obviously if used within proper limits.”


Facebook would be able to “distort our perception of reality”, as suggested by the research institute?

“The virtual space has created an area of operations and relationships with very different characteristics from the limits imposed by reality. In daily reports in fact we have more awareness of what we are doing and the possible consequences, even negative, of our direct actions. Through the network some people have fewer inhibitions, as if the relationships could be “played” in a more simple way, and on one hand this may allows us to express even the most hidden parts of ourselves, while on the other hand, the situation can risk spiralling out of control. Since this is a type of “social window” it is normal for a person to consciously decide to share only the best part of himself, as we tend to do everyday life with more superficial relationships.”