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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A new study shows that people who leave Facebook are happier, mainly because they get a break from all the divisive political conversations. Balancing social media and mental health without getting too emotionally wrapped up is complicated.
Experts say the country is bitterly divided because of politics, and people often feel emboldened to say things on social media they wouldn’t say in person. It can inflame situations and hurt feelings.
The obvious solution – getting off social media – isn’t always necessary, experts say.
“Social media is not an answer – it’s a tool,” said Bruce Nesmith, a political science professor. “So just like how you can use a hammer to build a house, you can use a hammer to smash something.”
Heavy-handed views expressed on Facebook can be upsetting. A new study says bickering on social media can impact your mood.
“Hopeless, helpless, anger, frustration,” said therapist Lisa Kim.
Kim says she’s seen a spike in people needing to process the political climate in therapy.
“There’s that person you were friends with from middle school who is very right or left wing,” said Kim. “And they’re continually posting stuff, so people sort of feel at the mercy of these things. It was unlike anything I had ever seen in the entire time I’ve been in practice.”
But many people feel if they leave Facebook completely, they’ll miss out on what’s going on in the world. There are solutions.
Experts suggest choosing a few neutral news sources that aren’t on Facebook, where they can be clouded with polarized comments.
“Knowing everything that occurs and every factoid is not necessarily as important as knowing enough to be able to recognize the signs of responsible argument, responsible political presentation,” said Nesmith.
And if you don’t want to unfriend, you can use the unfollow option.
“I found that dispatching, you now, maybe a half a dozen at most people to Facebook netherworld, the tone of the feed changed dramatically,” said Nesmith.
Experts say another option is to limit the amount of time you spend on social media, and it’s probably a good idea to stay away right before bedtime. Stressful, upsetting posts can make you lose sleep.