Tuesday, 27 November 2012
The More Facebook Friends You Have, the More the Stress – Study
A new study states that as much as a large number of friends on Facebook may appear impressive, it can also be a source of stress, writes Maureen Azuh.
Since it was founded, Facebook has served as a means of reunion for friends. It also offers a platform for social interaction. In fact, many people believe that the more friends an individual has on Facebook, the merrier.
However, a report from the University of Edinburg Business School has found that the more social circles a person is linked to online, the more likely social media will be a source of stress to him or her.
The researchers used Facebook as a model and found that the more groups of people in someone’s ‘Facebook friends’, the greater potential to cause offence. They say that adding employers or parents resulted in the greatest increase in anxiety.
According to them, the stress arises when users present versions of themselves on Facebook that are unacceptable to some of their online ‘friends’, including posts displaying behaviour such as swearing, recklessness, drinking and smoking.
According to them, as older people join the site, the stress increases for the younger ones as the expectations of older users may be very different from those of younger users.
The study found that 55 per cent of parents follow their children on Facebook. Likewise, more than half of employers claim not to have hired someone based on their Facebook page.
The researchers found that on average, people are Facebook friends with seven different social circles. The most common group was friends known offline, which constitutes about 97 per cent of friends added online. It is followed by extended family at 81 per cent, siblings at 80 per cent, friends of friends at 69 per cent, and colleagues, 65 per cent.
Author of the report and career fellow in marketing at the Business School, Ben Marder, says the study also discovered that more people are Facebook friends with their former partners than with their current relationship partner, a situation that may cause more anxiety.
“Only 56 per cent of users were friends with their boyfriend, girlfriend or spouse online, compared with 64 per cent of exes,” he says.
The report surveyed more than 300 people on Facebook, mostly students, with an average age of 21. It also discovered that only one third use the listing privacy setting on their Facebook profile, which can be used to control the information seen by different types of friends.
“Facebook used to be like a great party for all your friends where you can dance, drink and flirt. But now with your mum, dad and boss there the party becomes an anxious event full of potential social landmines,” he says.
Other researchers, in their quest to understand the advantages and disadvantages of Facebook as a social networking site; have also found that the platform it provides may not be good for people with low self-esteem.
In the study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, the researchers say in theory, the social networking website Facebook could be great for people with low self-esteem as sharing is important for improving friendships. But in practice, people with low self-esteem seem to behave counterproductively, bombarding their friends with negative titbits about their lives and making themselves less likeable.
A graduate student at University of Waterloo, Canada, Amanda Forest, who co-wrote the new study with her advisor, Joanne Wood, says they were generally interested in self-esteem, and how self-esteem affects the kinds of emotions people express.
“We had this idea that Facebook could be a really fantastic place for people to strengthen their relationships. People with low self-esteem are often uncomfortable sharing face-to-face, but Facebook makes it possible to share remotely,” she says.
According to the researchers, in one study, they asked students how they feel about Facebook. People with low self-esteem were more likely to think that Facebook provided an opportunity to connect with other people, and to perceive it as a safe place that reduces the risk of awkward social situations.
The researchers also investigated what students actually wrote on Facebook. They asked the students for their last 10 status updates, sentences like “(Name) is lucky to have such terrific friends and is looking forward to a great day tomorrow!” and “(Name) is upset because her phone got stolen” were mostly reported. The updates were visible to their Facebook friends and the people in their network.
Each set of status updates was rated for how positive or negative it was. For each set of statements, a coder — an undergraduate Facebook user — rated how much they liked the person who wrote them.
The results show that people with low self-esteem were more negative than people with high self-esteem — and the coders liked them less. Forest says the coders were strangers. In earlier research, the researchers found that nearly half of Facebook friends of subjects were actually strangers or acquaintances, not close friends.
They also found that people with low self-esteem get more responses from their real Facebook friends when they post highly positive updates, compared to less positive ones. People with high self-esteem, on the other hand, get more responses when they post negative items, perhaps because these are rarer for them.
Forest says people with low self-esteem may feel safe making personal disclosures on Facebook – but they may not be helping themselves.
“If you’re talking to somebody in person and you say something, you might get some indication that they don’t like it, that they’re sick of hearing your negativity. But when people have a negative reaction to a post on Facebook, they seem to keep it to themselves. On Facebook, you don’t see most of the reactions,” she says.
However, a report published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behaviour and Social Networking of March 2012 has a contrary opinion about Facebook and self-esteem.
The study, carried out by an Associate professor of Communication at Cornell University, US, Jeffery Hancock, found that Facebook can have a positive influence on the self-esteem of college students.
“This is probably because Facebook allows them to put their best face forward,” Hancock says.
Hancock notes that users can choose what they reveal about themselves and filter anything that might reflect badly.
“Unlike a mirror, that reminds us of whom we really are and may have a negative effect on our self-esteem if that image does match with our ideals, Facebook can show a positive version of us. We’re not saying that it’s a deceptive version of self, but it’s a positive one,” he says.