The more Facebook friends people have , the more likely they are to feel stressed out by the site, according to a new study by Scottish researchers.
Psychologists from Edinburgh Napier University surveyed 200 students on their use of Facebook, and discovered that for a significant number of users the negative effect of the social network outweighed the benefits of staying in touch with friends and family.
“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.”
“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.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.”
“An overwhelming majority of respondents reported that the best thing about Facebook was ‘keeping in touch’, often without any further explanation,” said Dr Charles. “But many also told us they were anxious about withdrawing from the site for fear of missing important social information or offending contacts.
“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.”
Additionally, she cites that other causes of stress includes deleting unwanted contacts, the pressure to be entertaining and having to use appropriate etiquette for different types of friends.
“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,” said Dr. Charles.