If you're looking for evidence that Facebook is a depressing waste of time, there's no shortage of studies out there. Scientists have repeatedly found that when people give up the site they feel less socially anxious and more fulfilled.

But the case for going cold turkey on social media isn't open and shut. Other studies find that Facebook and positive real world social interaction often go together. The site really can help you make meaningful connections and find fun things to do.

So how do you balance these two truths, maximizing the community-building, loneliness-busting potential of Facebook but avoiding the very real envy-inducing, time-wasting aspects of the site? New research from time tracking app Moment offers an oddly specific answer to this question.

The social media happiness breaking point

Moment is an app that helps people automatically track how much they really use their phones (warning: it's probably more than you think), so the company has a unique view of our collective phone addiction. By asking some 20,000 users to also provide information on how happy or unhappy they were with their social media use, Moment was also able to deduce out social media habits actually make us feel.

The company provided the results to Thrive Mobile (hat tip to Quartz), and they offer weirdly specific advice for those looking to maximize their Facebook happiness. "There is a happiness breaking point for each app," Kevin Holesh, Moment's founder, told the site. What is it exactly? For Facebook, the answer is 20 minutes a day. (For Instagram it's 26; for YouTube 33.)

"Spend less than that and you'll likely be happy with your use of the app, spend more and you won't be," explains Thrive Global's Drake Baer, who notes that "academic research has found much the same."

What's good for Facebook might not be good for you.

How does that stack up with your use? If you're anything like the average person, it's less than half of what you're currently clocking on the site. Which probably explains why just 37 percent of Facebook users told Moment they're happy with how they use of the site.

All that excessive scrolling is good news for Facebook, Holesh stresses, but bad news for users. "The average person spends 55 minutes on Facebook each day. Despite any justifications the designers made in making Facebook 'more engaging,' it doesn't matter to Facebook if that last 35 minutes doesn't make you happier; it makes Facebook 60 percent richer," he commented.

The lesson here for non-Facebookers is probably pretty straightforward: beware mindless clicking, as you're probably spending more time on social media than you really want to. Consciously cutting back (and using those minutes for more productive activities), will almost certainly make you happier, Moment's research suggests.

Published on: Sep 19, 2017