A massive study of over one million teens found that excessive internet and social media usage was linked to unhappiness. Researchers from San Diego University found a correlation between too much screen time and a rise in unhappiness. In the study, teenagers were asked questions on how much time they spent on their phones, tablets, and computers as well as how many hours they hung out with friends and participated in non-internet activities such as sports. The study discovered that teens who spent excessive time on screens were “markedly unhappier” than those who had a better balance of non-screen activities. However, there is a balance of screen time and other activities that leads to happiness.
“Although this study can’t show causation, several other studies have shown that more social media use leads to unhappiness, but unhappiness does not lead to more social media use,” said professor Jean Twenge, lead author of the study. “The key to digital media use and happiness is limited use. Aim to spend no more than two hours a day on digital media, and try to increase the amount of time you spend seeing friends face-to-face and exercising – two activities reliably linked to greater happiness.”
The study utilized data from a national survey of 8th, 10th, and 12th graders that has been conducted annually since 1991. The study found a correlation with the drop in satisfaction, self-esteem, and happiness of teens starting in 2012 with the rise in teen phone use and the explosion of social media. “By far the largest change in teens’ lives between 2012 and 2016 was the increase in the amount of time they spent on digital media, and the subsequent decline in in-person social activities and sleep,” professor Twenge said. “The advent of the smartphone is the most plausible explanation for the sudden decrease in teens’ psychological well-being.”
“Every year, teens are asked about their general happiness, in addition to how they spend their time,” the study said. “We found that teens who spent more time seeing their friends in person, exercising, playing sports, attending religious services, reading or even doing homework were happier. However, teens who spent more time on the internet, playing computer games, on social media, texting, using video chat or watching TV were less happy.” Teens who spent more than five hours a day online were twice as likely to be unhappy than those who spent less than an hour a day.
However, ditching the internet completely did not equate to the happiest teens. The perfect balance was found in teens who used digital media for less than an hour a day, they were the happiest. The researchers theorize that too much internet and social media may be the cause of the decline in adults’ happiness since 2000. The researchers found that adults over the age of 30 were less happy than they were 15 years ago. More screen time could be cutting out time for sex and less sex can cause people to be less happy. So there you go, less screen time and less social media can bring more happiness to your life.