More friends equals more stress on Facebook

More friends equals more stress on Facebook

Summary: Facebook might be causing you stress. Furthermore, the more friends you have on the service, the more stress you may be experiencing.

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The more Facebook friends you have, the more likely you are to feel stressed out by the social network, according to a new study by Scottish researchers and psychologists at the Edinburgh Napier University. They quizzed about 200 students on their use of the service, and concluded that for a significant number of users, the negative effects outweigh the benefits of staying in touch with friends and family. There was also an online survey component that attracted 175 participants (127 female and 48 male, with a mean age of 30.4 years), which found that:

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

"The results threw up a number of paradoxes," Dr. Kathy Charles, who led the study, said in a statement. "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. An overwhelming majority of respondents reported that the best thing about Facebook was 'keeping in touch', often without any further explanation."

Those with more friends are the most likely to be more stressed because they have invested the most time in the site. Other causes of tension include "unfriending" unwanted contacts, the pressure to be inventive and entertaining, using appropriate etiquette for different types of friends, feelings of exclusion, paranoia, as well as envy of others' lifestyles.

Dr. Charles noted that many were anxious about withdrawing from the site for fear of missing important social information or offending contacts. She even compared the social network to gambling: the service keeps users in a neurotic limbo, not knowing whether they should keep at it just in case they miss out on something good.

Topics: Social Enterprise, Collaboration

Emil Protalinski

About Emil Protalinski

Emil is a freelance journalist writing for CNET and ZDNet. Over the years,
he has covered the tech industry for multiple publications, including Ars
Technica, Neowin, and TechSpot.

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Talkback

19 comments
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  • RE: More friends equals more stress on Facebook

    Close your Facebook account. Seriously, it's pointless and a security risk.
    Droid101
    • RE: More friends equals more stress on Facebook

      @Droid101
      Why? i still don't get it..
      ardhagp
      • RE: More friends equals more stress on Facebook

        @ardhagp Droid101 want people to close their FB accounts because it's not a Google product... he's the resident paid drive by troll.

        To some FB may be pointless but to some it is a tool much like a smartphone, email, home phone, or snail mail as a way to keep up with friends and relatives.
        athynz
  • Facbook

    The day your grandmother joined Facebook it stopped being COOL... if you still use it you are a LOSER!
    Hasam1991
    • RE: More friends equals more stress on Facebook

      @Hasam1991 Then it is a good thing my grandmother hasn't joined Facebook.
      athynz
  • RE: More friends equals more stress on Facebook

    I've got over a thousand "friends", I have no anxiety over Facebook whatsoever.

    I go with a school of fish idea, in such a large bunch of comments, the individual becomes invisible.

    Just as in real life I bump into my real friends now and then.
    alsobannedfromzdnet
    • RE: More friends equals more stress on Facebook

      @alsobannedfromzdnet It's exactly what I wanted
      JasonQiang
  • Avoid facebook

    We may feel that we have friends. But the feelings are somewhat tangled and we know what we have is virtual friends. They are not going to be there when we feel low. There is no one to pat our back or give a hug. After s while we feel stressed out because we feel we have to respond back.

    For those of us who are connected and feel that we are not moving on? we have created a website called Avoid Facebook @ www.AvoidFacebook.com
    Avoid Facebook
    • RE: More friends equals more stress on Facebook

      @Avoid Facebook What about those of us who are on Facebook and use it to keep up with those far flung friends and relatives who are seen in person a few times a year at most? Should we just stop using it and lose that contact?

      Please, spare the me the touchy feely stuff... if I need a pat on the back or a hug I have a wife who more than fulfills that need as well as good friends who do the same - some of them ARE also on Facebook.
      athynz
  • RE: More friends equals more stress on Facebook

    I guess that means Loverock has the least stress of everyone here...zero friends.

    BAHAHAHA
    Ron Burgundy
  • Facebook Stress

    I have an account but I don't post anything there.
    I just monitor the movements and updates in my friends.
    I don't upload pics (but some of my lousy pics are popping up in my account due to tags from friends), no wall, no links no messages. Just checking out friends and there newly married wives.

    I honestly believe Facebook lowers self esteem (already read about this "self-esteem issue" in one study in UK also), as you will see your friends being happy and successful and laughing in there Facebook pics. But I noticed that those mediocre and "failure" / "loser" types are quitting facebook from day 1.
    Martmarty
    • RE: More friends equals more stress on Facebook

      @Martmarty Yeah yeah, YOU my friend are one of the types who influenced me (passively) to close my fb account. I was one of those few who really got into a high level of interactivity on fb. Politics, sharing articles, music, videos with friends, pics... and for the most part, far too many merely came along and "liked" my efforts (as if "like" has any meaning at all. No, I detested the amount of trolling from folks like you. I felt that I was making an effort to communicate, to connect, yet it was seldom reciprocated by others. Frustrated the heck out of me. I mean, if you are not going to do anything on fb, why even bother? Other people's postings are not a service from which you sit back and observe and monitor.
      Oh, don't get me started!
      mick8535
      • nt

        @mick8535
        .
        nt
        .
        Martmarty
  • These are not friends...

    ...just other desperate fake-wannabe-friend people that have no REAL life and have to create little online dramas so they feel they are cool or something. In real life these people are very boring, dress badly, have bad breath, clammy hands, and are very pale looking.
    james347
  • RE: More friends equals more stress on Facebook

    As an older user I find FB useful as a portal to conect with actual friends from all periods of my life - to keep in touch with people I truly care about and who care about me. It is an extremely useful tool for organizing get-togethers, whether going out to a concert tomorrow with neighbors or creating a reunion of college friends in six months. As a tool to interact with a smallish (100 person) circle of real friends, I don't think it creates anxiety - it seems to be the frenzied mass friending with people you don't know that creates these weird anxieties and competitions...
    MissLiz
    • RE: More friends equals more stress on Facebook

      @MissLiz - Liz, I hear ya, but I also disagre that it is real or authentic. I found that fb tends to desensitize people and that it is NOT even close to a substitue for real connection and catching up. I re-found many many people form many era's of my life (I am 47), yet when eventually I became disgusted and bailed on fb, guess what? I didn't miss any of them, as it never really seemed real, just another Internet time kill (x 100!)
      mick8535
  • RE: More friends equals more stress on Facebook

    Like MartMarty and MissLiz, I use FB to connect with people I actually know, friends and family. People I get to know from shared interests and ideas, I eventually friend or accept friend requests from. But, I find friend requests from collectors and insecure people very uncomfortable and frequently annoying.
    RyuDarragh
  • RE: More friends equals more stress on Facebook

    the success of fb shows that there are many lonely and narcissist ppl out there, period.
    gundam_0083
  • RE: More friends equals more stress on Facebook

    So THIS is where the Anti-Facebook trolls hang out and drone on about the perceived evils of Facebook and/ or social networking in general. Quite amusing.<br><br>As for this "study" I must be the exception - I have around 230 friends and no stress from FB... and they are not virtual friends as some poster on here alludes to but real flesh and blood friends that I do see on the occasions when work, family life, and things around the house permit. <br><br>What you people do not seem to get is that Facebook - like any other social networking site - is a tool. But I guess you haters hang here and are the sort of anti-fad people who hate something popular in order to feel cool. I left that attitude behind many moons ago and grew up.

    As for Facebook being "useless" as one troll puts it, I think that Peter Ball would disagree with you: http://www.zdnet.com/blog/facebook/surgeon-gives-life-saving-diagnosis-via-facebook/160
    athynz