Facebook stress linked to number of ‘friends’

The more Facebook ‘friends’ you have, the more likely you are to feel stressed out by the social networking site, according to a new study by Scottish researchers.

Psychologists from Edinburgh Napier University quizzed* around 200 students on their use of the phenomenally successful site, which now has more than 500 million users worldwide.

And they concluded that for a significant number of users the negative effects of Facebook 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 online survey of students’ attitudes towards Facebook made up part of the study. Of those surveyed:

  • 12 per cent of respondents said that Facebook made them feel anxious.  Of these, respondents had an average of 117 ‘friends’ each.  The remaining 88% of respondents, who said that Facebook did not make them feel anxious, had an average of 75 ‘friends’ each.
  • 63 per cent delayed replying to friend requests
  • 32 per cent said rejecting friend requests led to feelings of guilt and discomfort
  • 10 per cent admitted disliking receiving friend requests

“An overwhelming majority of respondents reported that the best thing about Facebook was ‘keeping in touch’, often without any further explanation,” said Dr Charles.

Read more from Edinburgh Napier University

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