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Quitting Facebook for just 5 days can make you less stressed, research shows

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Most technology and social media platforms are set up to steal your attention in little bursts of time throughout the day. But after a few minutes of scrolling through your Facebook feed turns into a few hours, you can end up feeling unproductive and unhappy.

That may be why new scientific research finds that, when people take even relatively short breaks from Facebook, they feel significantly less stressed than when they are constantly on.

"All the social information you get from Facebook can be taxing and keeping up with friends all the time can be stressful," lead researcher and social neuroscientist Eric Vanman tells CNBC Make It. "Taking mini Facebook vacations may actually help you feel less stressed and more connected in the long run."

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In the study, published in the Journal of Social Psychology, Vanman studied the habits of 138 active Facebook users (those who use the platform for at least three hours a day) and he asked half of them to refrain from using Facebook for five days. To measure their stress levels researchers took samples of their saliva to check the levels of cortisol — the stress hormone — released into their body.

Vanman eplains that there is no "average" amount of cortisol in any given person's body, but they could check how much stress each person felt before and after quitting Facebook. In addition to the physiological stress response, the people in the study were asked to report their perceived level of stress and well-being.

To Vanman's surprise, the people who quit Facebook for five days did experience a decrease in stress, but they also reported a worsened sense of well-being. His main explanation for this: "FOMO," or the fear of missing out.

"These people felt cut off from their friends. Even though monitoring your friends can be a source of stress, feeling left out or out of the loop can actually make you more stressed," Vanman says.

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Although he cautions this is only a preliminary study with a small sample group, Vanman notes this is the first study to demonstrate the physiological effects of Facebook use. He also suggests that other researchers look at how not using Facebook for longer stretches of time can affect people.

Vanman says you don't need to delete your profile all together, but "taking Facebook vacations can help you seek out more meaningful connections with people in real life."

"This isn't a uniquely millennial issue, as some have put it," Vanman says. "But as people continue to use social media and more platforms allow us to monitor each others' lives, we need to understand how balancing all of this will help or harm the next generation."

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