Why a Facebook break could help your overall happiness

What happens when you take a little break from Facebook? According to a research by the Happiness Research Institute (HRI), more happiness and a better social life await you. The HRI is an independent Danish institute that deals with welfare, quality of life and happiness. They led a Facebook experiment with the goal of assessing the impact social network has on its users’ lives.

The study was conducted in Denmark on a sample of 1,095 individuals divided into two random groups. In one of the two groups, the participants were asked to abstain from using Facebook for a week. In the other sample the use of Facebook was high, with 94% of participants using it daily. Before and after these seven days, the participants completed a questionnaire, which evaluated various aspects of their lives.
The level of perceived satisfaction increased (on a scale from 1 to 10) from 7,56 to 8,12 for those who abstained from the social media, while the increase was more modest among those who remained connected (from 7.67 to 7.75).

How can a break from Facebook change self-perception and quality of life? 

What happened to the people who spent a week offline?
Apparently, they were happier, less worried, less depressed, less lonely, more excited and more resolute. They also benefited from a enhanced social life, which was more satisfying in general. In addition, the period of time offline contributed to an increase in their concentration. The participants also felt that they were wasting their time using Facebook.

The “social envy” risk

Data from the experiment also showed how Facebook can stimulate social envy. 5 out of 10 people felt envy for the incredible experiences others have had, 1 out of 3 for others’ happiness and 4 out of 10 for their apparent success.

“Envy is the most difficult feeling to admit, but certainly present, in varying quantities in all of us. What makes the difference is always the measure.” reports Dr. Katia Rastelli, a psychologist from the department for Bariatric Surgery at Humanitas hospital. “Being a little jealous can also mean becoming competitive, while being pathologically envious means you spoil your 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. Thus, for the easily jealous, Facebook can become an arena of impossible and risky competition, putting salt on an open wound or a low basic self-esteem, which can result in a change of perceived quality of life.”

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.”

A distorted perception of reality

“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 simpler way. 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 spiraling 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.”

How to avoid social envy and distortion?

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

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.



Humanitas is a highly specialized Hospital, Research and Teaching Center. Built around centers for the prevention and treatment of cancer, cardiovascular, neurological and orthopedic disease – together with an Ophthalmic Center and a Fertility Center – Humanitas also operates a highly specialised Emergency Department.