It’s Research Wednesday! Where I share the latest, or most fascinating, in the science of friendship.
“A large number of friends on Facebook may appear impressive but, according to a new report, the more social circles a person is linked to online the more likely social media will be a source of stress.” (“More Facebook Friends Means More Stress, Says Report”; ScienceDaily.com 11/26/2012)
I find scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed both stress-inducing and addictive. It’s like a bad drug. Every time I lose 30 minutes to the social network, I feel worse. Like I’ve just wasted time spying on others, while doing nothing productive myself. It stresses me out to see all the fabulous activities others are doing or links others are reading or vacations others are taking. I should be doing those things–and more!
But for most people, the source of Facebook stress isn’t that it’s virtual crack (apparently, I’m flying solo on that one). The issue is who to add as friends, and then what to allow these friends to see. “The more groups of people in someone’s Facebook friends, the greater potential to cause offense. In particular, adding employers or parents resulted in the greatest increase in anxiety,” this report says. “Stress arises when a user presents a version of themself on Facebook that is unacceptable to some of their online ‘friends’, such as posts displaying behavior such as swearing, recklessness, drinking and smoking.”
When I started working at my last job, I was hardly on Facebook. I had a profile, but I logged in once every two months. This was in 2007, before everyone posted every moment of her day. As my superiors started adding me as a “friend,” I got more familiar with privacy settings. I didn’t allow my bosses to see my photos. (Not that they were particularly incriminating, but you never know what someone else is likely to post. And there are some pics of me in college–scanned from actual print photos and posted online, thankssomuch guys–that I didn’t need out there.) I created a work group listie thing that I could exclude from seeing certain status updates. That job is behind me now and so are those privacy settings, but I understand why it might cause anxiety. Thank God I was a bit older when Facebook hit the scene. If I was in college now, having pictures of every drunken night plastered all over the Internet, I’d be stressed too. Especially when it came time to apply for jobs.
According to this study, plenty of our Facebook friends aren’t necessarily friends, anyway. “Researchers found that on average people are Facebook friends with seven different social circles. The most common group was friends known offline (97 per cent added them as friends online), followed by extended family (81 per cent), siblings (80 per cent), friends of friends (69 per cent), and colleagues (65 per cent).” It’s no shock that one might get anxious when parents, grandparents and colleagues are constantly kept abreast of her actions.
The author of this study gave this analysis, and I think it’s on point: “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.”
Do you agree? Is Facebook the awesomest frat party ever? Or the most awkward family gathering of your life?