View all newsletters
Receive our newsletter - data, insights and analysis delivered to you
  1. Technology
February 16, 2011updated 19 Aug 2016 10:05am

The more friends we have on Facebook, the more stressed we become

New study finds social network gives us the heebie-jeebies

By

Facebook friends

With friends like these, who needs enemies? A new study has found that the more Facebook ‘friends’ you have, the more likely you are to feel stressed out by the social networking site.

Psychologists from Edinburgh Napier University quizzed around 200 students on their use of Facebook and concluded that for a significant number of users, the negative effects of Facebook outweighed the benefits of staying in touch with friends and family.

Facebook is now the most-visited website in the UK, and has over 500 million users worldwide. If Facebook were a country, it would be the third most populated in the world behind only China and India.

The researchers found that amongst their students, those with the most Facebook ‘friends’ were most likely to be stressed out by the site, with 12 per cent saying it made them feel anxious, 32 per cent saying rejecting ‘friend’ requests had led to feelings of guilt and discomfort, and 10 per cent saying they don’t like getting ‘friend’ requests in the first place.

"The results threw up a number of paradoxes," said Dr Kathy Charles, who led the study. "For instance, although there is great pressure to be on Facebook there is also considerable ambivalence amongst users about its benefits."

Content from our partners
European Technology Leadership: Deutsche Bank CTO Gordon Mackechnie
Print’s role in driving the environmental agenda
What finance leaders get wrong about digital transformation

"Our data also suggests that there is a significant minority of users who experience considerable Facebook-related anxiety, with only very modest or tenuous rewards," Dr Charles said. "And we found it was actually those with the most contacts, those who had invested the most time in the site, who were the ones most likely to be stressed."

Some students also said they were anxious about withdrawing from the site for fear of missing important social information or offending their friends.

"An overwhelming majority of respondents reported that the best thing about Facebook was ‘keeping in touch’, often without any further explanation," said Dr Charles. "Like gambling, Facebook keeps users in a neurotic limbo, not knowing whether they should hang on in there just in case they miss out on something good."

Dr Charles said other causes of tension included purging unwanted contacts, having to use appropriate etiquette for different types of friends and the pressure to be inventive and entertaining. That’s surely something Steven Fry will identify with: he briefly abandoned rival social networking site Twitter after one of his ‘followers’ accused him of being boring.

Dr Charles added: "The other responses we got in focus groups and one-to-one interviews suggests that the survey figures actually under represent aspects of stress and anxiety felt by some Facebook users, whether it’s through feelings of exclusion, pressure to be entertaining, paranoia or envy of others’ lifestyles."

The most common searches on Google starting with ‘Are facebook friends…’ are: ‘Are facebook friends really your friends?’ and ‘Are facebook friends real?’. Real or not, it seems having a lot of ‘friends’ on the social networking site is a source of stress for many.

In January a survey in the US by market research firm Toluna and phone firm VTech Communications found many suffering from what some have labelled ‘digital stress’: anxiety brought on by having to be constantly accessible for work (33 per cent) and the apparent need to keep up with the latest technologies (20 per cent). In a New Year promotion VTech asked punters how they intended to avoid such stresses this year, and guess where they hosted the competition? You guessed it, on their Facebook page.

And if you can handle the stress, please follow me on twitter: twitter.com/jasonstamper

 

 

Websites in our network
NEWSLETTER Sign up Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Tech Monitor's research, insight and analysis examines the frontiers of digital transformation to help tech leaders navigate the future. Our Changelog newsletter delivers our best work to your inbox every week.
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy
SUBSCRIBED

THANK YOU