Facebook Blackout Study Helps Students Reduce Stress

A recent non-scientific experiment by a small Pennsylvania college shows that a significant amount of students felt less stressed out and were more engaged with their studies if they were banned access from Facebook and Twitter.

Try this for finals week: stay off Facebook. A recent non-scientific experiment by a small Pennsylvania college shows that a significant amount of students felt less stressed out and were more engaged with their studies if they were banned access from Facebook and Twitter.

Harrisburg University had a smart idea: cut out access to Facebook for a week and see what happened. Supported by their College of Science and Technology, students and teachers were surveyed before and after the blackout week, which took place last September (at the beginning of the semester). The results, released last Friday, are hardly surprising: 33% of students declared feeling less stressed out, 25% said they had an easier time concentrating during class time, and 23% found lectures and seminars more “interesting.”

Not feeling like they “had to” check their messages all the time, or not being distracted while searching online content related to their studies, were cited as some of the significant benefits. You might remember that earlier this year we wrote a mini-guide for students on how to use Facebook during exam time. Much of the stuff we talked about on there is supported by these findings.

As for Harrisburg’s experiment, it wasn’t 100% controlled: people could still access Facebook if they went out to the edges of campus and hooked up to someone else’s WiFi connection, and they could also access their Facebook app via smartphones. And while social media sites were banned, students and teachers were still allowed to use email, text messaging, and IM.

And yet, it is a testament to Facebook’s omnipresence among college kids that banning it for a week would have a lifestyle effect at all (although the results from this study tell a different story). According to Reuters, 40% of students at Harrisburg admit to spending between 11 and 20 hours a day on Facebook and other social media tools. And while we can’t quite assert that Facebook is the sole cause for less quality study-time and other non-productive activities (remember this study?), it is hardly arguable that for a lot of people checking Facebook has become as much a compulsive habit as checking their email account.

Photo via Christopher Millette.