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Study links number of Facebook friends to stress levels

Study links number of Facebook friends to stress levels

With over 3 million friends, Mark Zuckerberg must be suffering from Hulk-like levels of stress.

Psychologists from Edinburgh Napier University today released the results of a study, revealing that people with more Facebook friends are more likely to feel stressed or anxious about using the website.

In fact, the study concluded that, for a significant number of Facebook users, the negative effects of the website even outweigh the positive benefits of staying in touch with friends and family.

The lead researcher for the study - Dr Kathy Charles - also points out that the study threw up a number of paradoxes, such as the fact that there is ‘great pressure to be on Facebook but for most, only very modest or tenuous rewards.

The study also likens Facebook to gambling, saying that ‘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.’ This, says the report, leaves users of the site feeling ‘anxious about withdrawing from the site for fear of missing important social information or offending contacts’.

Interestingly, the study also found that users found the pressure to be inventive and entertaining with their status updates and comments stressful.

Other interesting numbers pulled out of the study are that:
  • 12 per cent of respondents said that Facebook made them feel anxious
  • 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
Does any of this anxiety and stress regarding Facebook sounds familiar to you? Do you fuss over crafting the perfect status or comment for hours? Let us know your thoughts in the forums.

40 Comments

Discuss in the forums Reply
WarrenJ 16th February 2011, 12:23 Quote
I have a mouth and a phone. Why is facebook useful?
B1GBUD 16th February 2011, 12:26 Quote
The only stress I get from facebook is when someone spams me unknowingly because they don't know their malware ridden PC is crapping out garbage.

I used to just remove them but it's got so bad I have blocked anything from being written on my wall.
Xir 16th February 2011, 12:30 Quote
Meh, no different from the stress generated by IRC or IM.
Must-Answer-must-be-witty.
wuyanxu 16th February 2011, 12:34 Quote
why do people read their feed should be the first stress alarm bell.

i only go on it to use the PM system to connect with friends, i simply don't understand the wall system. when you are having a conversation with another person, you don't want to be interrupted, so why use the wall posts when it's definitely going to get viewed and commented by other people? most of the time, people you never met.
Orionche 16th February 2011, 12:40 Quote
I've noticed that people with a large friends list very rarely post anything, sort of defeating the purpose of the site...
liratheal 16th February 2011, 12:40 Quote
I swear, people go out of their way to get stressed these days.

It's not uncommon that I start talking to someone I know and they're suffering from "Stress" or "anxiety" or some other illness.
The Infamous Mr D 16th February 2011, 12:41 Quote
I suppose it's essentially the equivalent of being popular in real life. As in the days before social networking sites sprung up, the pressure to manage that many friends, contacts and associates with appearances, witty banter and charming dialogue must have been about the same.
leveller 16th February 2011, 12:55 Quote
I don't see how people with thousands of 'friends' on Facebook can relax and be themselves. Well, unless you are actually a well-liked and funny guy like Matt Lucas etc, then I guess so, but otherwise you would constantly feel like curbing your true jesting or honesty for fear of upsetting/annoying people.

Also those who don't fall in the Matt Lucas category and seem to be pulling as many randoms into their 'friends' list as possible, appear to me to be desperately trying to look popular, and the reality is that like someone said above, these people then say bugger-all !
maximus09 16th February 2011, 13:03 Quote
The only thing that stresses me about facebook is that there is so many people, yet nothing happening at all. Kind of like satellite television, so many channels but nothing on!
CardJoe 16th February 2011, 13:14 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by WarrenJ
I have a mouth and a phone. Why is facebook useful?

You can speak photographs?! You can call people in multiple timezonesat once without annoying them?! You can organise something with hundreds of people without incurring a huge phone bill?! You phone people up to tell them about funny links all the time?! You can keep in touch with friends you haven't seen for years without being a weirdo?!
bob_lewis 16th February 2011, 13:25 Quote
Sounds like you've got quite a lot of friends on the book of faces thingie, Joe... :)
PingCrosby 16th February 2011, 13:32 Quote
Just reading this has got me stressed, I'd talk to my imaginary friend but he's not talking to me at the moment.
BRAWL 16th February 2011, 13:33 Quote
I recent returned to Facebook...

...and now Facebook.... my own personal trolling ground. I have about 20 friends who help me troll people and have a laugh, but that isn't my issue ^.^

Facebook IM can sod off, I just route it through windows live and chat to my mates on there!
leveller 16th February 2011, 13:33 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by PingCrosby
Just reading this has got me stressed, I'd talk to my imaginary friend but he's not talking to me at the moment.

'Poke' him on FB, apparently it's the same as twisting his nipples IRL!
Snips 16th February 2011, 13:38 Quote
Hasn't this dude been picked up by the scientologists? He'll just ignore it as all Psychologists are evil in their eyes!
biFFon 16th February 2011, 13:45 Quote
Imagine if people really did do all that via your phone! Now that would be stressful...
paisa666 16th February 2011, 14:13 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by CardJoe
Quote:
Originally Posted by WarrenJ
I have a mouth and a phone. Why is facebook useful?

You can speak photographs?! You can call people in multiple timezonesat once without annoying them?! You can organise something with hundreds of people without incurring a huge phone bill?! You phone people up to tell them about funny links all the time?! You can keep in touch with friends you haven't seen for years without being a weirdo?!

Yep. You know what faceboof is for and would ask WarrenJ those same questions.

I find facebook to be a great tool to keep in touch with people YOU ALREADY KNOW, just to say "Hi" to buddies you havent seen for a long time, from school or something, organize meetings with friends its just way to easy without calling each other making a mess.

Now if you use facebook to know new Ppl and stuff, then I say something its not working
Necrow 16th February 2011, 14:21 Quote
1 figure they forgot:
100% of internet users that have no facebook accounts had 0% stress related to facebook.

Facebook = Stress
Stress = Early Death
therefore:
Facebook Kills
tristanperry 16th February 2011, 14:26 Quote
Geez, makes for some incredulous reading.
Quote:
"the study concluded that, for a significant number of Facebook users, the negative effects of the website even outweigh the positive benefits"

* 12 per cent of respondents said that Facebook made them feel anxious

* 32 per cent said rejecting friend requests led to feelings of guilt and discomfort

THEN STOP USING FACEBOOK!

I use Facebook to keep in touch with friends and family in a casual way. If something urgent or private comes up, I'll use the phone.

If someone is constantly negative or keeps sending around the silly Facebook chain-letter style statuses, I'll put them on ignore.

And if I found myself getting stressed due to Facebook, I'd delete my account.

It amazes me how some people (who are thankfully in a minority) would keep using Facebook even if they don't enjoy it?
dunx 16th February 2011, 14:30 Quote
* 12 per cent of respondents said that Facebook made them feel anxious

At work ? Do some bloodyt work shirkers !

LoL

dunx

P.S. What is farceburke anyway ?
jrs77 16th February 2011, 14:32 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by CardJoe
You can speak photographs?! You can call people in multiple timezonesat once without annoying them?! You can organise something with hundreds of people without incurring a huge phone bill?! You phone people up to tell them about funny links all the time?! You can keep in touch with friends you haven't seen for years without being a weirdo?!

A website/webspace, a small CMS (lot's of free CMS outthere if you can't code one yourself), a mailinglist and a RSS-feed... nothing else needed actually and 100% under my control.
I can share links/pictures/etc with everyone I want to and I don't need a 3rd-party like Facebook making money by selling off my data and information to achieve this.
smc8788 16th February 2011, 14:36 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by CardJoe
You can speak photographs?! You can call people in multiple timezonesat once without annoying them?! You can organise something with hundreds of people without incurring a huge phone bill?! You phone people up to tell them about funny links all the time?! You can keep in touch with friends you haven't seen for years without being a weirdo?!

I have never felt the need to do any of those things. No wonder I never 'got' Facebook.

Though most of the people I know who spend inordinate amounts of time on Facebook do so just to play those stupid time-sink games.
Doctor Hades 16th February 2011, 14:47 Quote
I get sick of hearing about bloody Facebook! I've never used it and have no interest in using it which means that is one less stress causer to worry about! :D
Oggyb 16th February 2011, 15:05 Quote
I have a facebook account and it does not stress me.
phuzz 16th February 2011, 15:33 Quote
I have no facebook account and it does not stress me.
email+phone+face to face = more than enough social interaction for me
ch424 16th February 2011, 15:52 Quote
Wow, there's a load of miserable people in this thread. I'm pretty sure that if people don't like Facebook, it's because they don't get it. You can pick and choose what you want out of it, so dismissing it as an entirety because of a couple of features is short-sighted.
Quote:
Originally Posted by CardJoe
You can speak photographs?! You can call people in multiple timezonesat once without annoying them?! You can organise something with hundreds of people without incurring a huge phone bill?! You phone people up to tell them about funny links all the time?! You can keep in touch with friends you haven't seen for years without being a weirdo?!

As Joe says, facebook is an excellent way of doing many things.

1. Sharing photos. It's better than flickr or picasa because more people have it, it's better integrated with an address book system/privacy settings and the comments system is good as well.
2. Organising/finding events: if you're a student it's much easier to join a club/society's facebook page that has an integrated calendar than it is to sign up to dozens of mailing lists and transcribe events to your own google calendar/whatever.
3. Sharing links/thoughts with people you know. People come to bit-tech's general forum to share things they like with strangers. If you don't mind something being public, or you think others would find it interesting, posting it on a friend's wall is better than emailing/IMing it to them.

There are plenty more examples, and as tristanperry pointed out, if you don't like someone, you can just hide/get rid of them.
WildThing 16th February 2011, 15:58 Quote
ROFL, this makes my day. I'm not surprised by these findings tbh, but it does amuse me.
Quote:
Originally Posted by smc8788
I have never felt the need to do any of those things. No wonder I never 'got' Facebook.

+1 I never 'got' Facebook either, and I havn't looked back once since I deactivated my account.
Fizzban 16th February 2011, 16:02 Quote
I use FB for keeping in contact with friends and family. I don't find it stressful at all :?
It can also be useful in keeping up to date with certain companys or products if you feel inclined to add/like their page. There once was a time I wasted time on the games there, but that fascination wore off long ago.
adidan 16th February 2011, 16:05 Quote
So, any link to the actual study?

Sample size, statistical significance yada yada yada.

No? Hm, wonder why.

I don't do facebook, I see my friends. :)
DarkFear 16th February 2011, 16:06 Quote
I wonder how much of that is stress having parents as facebook "friends"? :p

Having your mother see your updates about how you got drunk at a bar and picking up an equally drunk bimbo must be kinda stressing...

Then again if you're the kind of idiot that tells people how wasted you were the night before via facebook then that probably wouldn't bother you that much.
jrs77 16th February 2011, 16:29 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by ch424
Wow, there's a load of miserable people in this thread. I'm pretty sure that if people don't like Facebook, it's because they don't get it. You can pick and choose what you want out of it, so dismissing it as an entirety because of a couple of features is short-sighted.

The only thing I get is that facebook wants to make profit by using my details like any other of those so called "social" networks.
Quote:
As Joe says, facebook is an excellent way of doing many things.

1. Sharing photos. It's better than flickr or picasa because more people have it, it's better integrated with an address book system/privacy settings and the comments system is good as well.

Sharing fotos on flickr is better, becasue you don't need a flickr-account to see the photos. Putting the fotos on your own server is even better, as not all people will stumble upon them there, but only those you want them to see.

Privacy settings on facebook can be circumvented as shown a dozen of times allready, they're total crap tbh.
Quote:
2. Organising/finding events: if you're a student it's much easier to join a club/society's facebook page that has an integrated calendar than it is to sign up to dozens of mailing lists and transcribe events to your own google calendar/whatever.

What a crap university you go to, that your university hasn't a calender on their site for all these events?

Nobody needs to give facebook any sort of that information to get it organized just as easy in other ways.
Quote:
3. Sharing links/thoughts with people you know. People come to bit-tech's general forum to share things they like with strangers. If you don't mind something being public, or you think others would find it interesting, posting it on a friend's wall is better than emailing/IMing it to them.

There are plenty more examples, and as tristanperry pointed out, if you don't like someone, you can just hide/get rid of them.

Sharing links with people I know can be done in a ton of other ways, it's nothing that would make facebook special.

---

Oh, and before there was the internet, we all managed to organize events and parties just aswell, and we had even better social contacts then most people have today using facebook.
And how many of the people you're "friends" with in facebook you meet in reallife and know if you really like them or not?

Facebook does offer nothing that would justify to give them your details, which they use to make money from.
I don't give away any details to websites (other then a few trusted eShops) or forums. No realnames, no address, no birthday, no nothing. And I sure won't post fotos of me all over the internet.

Big companies use profilers these days to look up for dirty laundry of their apprentices who apply for a job, and if you happen to have a facebook-account (or somethig else like this) with a picture of you being drunk for example, then say good bye to your job.

And for the stress.... All my phones or PCs have a button to turn them off, and if I don't want to be available, then I simply aren't available to anyone.
Alot of people in these social networks get stressed, because they fear to miss something, as it would be about life and death
GeorgeStorm 16th February 2011, 16:32 Quote
I use it everday, don't post a lot, buy it's almost always sitting there open, easy way of finding out a friends news or whatever, quite good for keeping track of events etc.
[USRF]Obiwan 16th February 2011, 16:33 Quote
What FB items give me stresh:
1) Useless and pointless games that other people force upon me to buy their treasurers, cakes and other worthless stuff.
2) People wanting me to press a button about (fill in any type of useless pointless quiz like thing)
3) The uninteresting adds on the right side that wont stay away if you click "Uninteresting, Misleading, Offensive and Repetitive" a hundred times.

For the rest its ok somewhat.
Furymouse 16th February 2011, 17:32 Quote
I guess I don't have enough friends to feel stressed :'(

The stress of not being stressed by a surplus of friends is really stressful.
FelixTech 16th February 2011, 18:25 Quote
My biggest gripe with facebook is that I can't be bothered to use it often enough. I only really end up using it to contact friends which I don't see regularly, and then I forget to check for their reply for about 4 days :S

There is definitely pressure to have a 'good' facebook account, but just like the pressure I get from my sisters to not wear jeans and a t-shirt every day, it's not significant :P
knuck 16th February 2011, 19:43 Quote
Facebook has gotten much better over the years since people stopped going there to play quizzes and annoy everyone with them. It's now all about sharing news worthy information or simply funny videos and pictures. I like it, tbh. The only people I find annoying on it are older people who are still "wowed" by the whole thing and share crap like everyone did in the early days.

Last night I spent an hour and a half talking to a girl I hadn't talked to since 2003. This is what facebook is about and I think it's cool.
13eightyfour 16th February 2011, 20:01 Quote
I dont have a facebook account, and tbh im one of those that doesnt get it, I can honestly count all my true friends on 2 hands, the people i have lost contact with over the years were for a reason (if i wanted to keep in touch id have made the effort then). So why look them up years later.

Yes i suppose im a bit of a loner, but i like it this way, Imo those that get anxious/stressed is because they feel the need to keep everybody happy.

I can see the useful side of facebook, its just not for me and i wish people wouldnt think im odd because i dont have an account!
frontline 16th February 2011, 21:47 Quote
log on, read message quickly, log off before anyone can initiate chat - job done.
zatanna 16th February 2011, 23:08 Quote
perhaps some of the stressed-out people have exceeded their dunbar number?
"theoretical cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunbar's_number

maybe past a certain number of "friends" things would start to feel more superficial and therefore less managable from a "soft skills" perspective?

i find it interesting that people feel anxious about getting friend requests from a social networking site and would like more info specifically. is it because they share personal details that they wouldn't want a "new" friend to know? there's a work-around for that. i wonder if some who feel anxious don't really want to use the site at all, but feel some peer pressure? or perhaps just don't know how to use it to best meet their personal social networking needs? which would mean determining those needs in the first place of course.

plus, relationship building requires effort (both on and offline) and for some, when it comes to something like facebook, that may just be too much work for too little payoff (anxiety)?
Kiytan 17th February 2011, 02:43 Quote
regardless of what else facebook is(n't) useful for, it's a damn handy place to upload photos.

I have a grand total of 30 friends on facebook (that is a number I had to go and look up). Unless they are actual friends, and not just people I know, I honestly do not see the point of adding them.

It does make you wonder though, if these people find facebook stressful, how the hell do they cope with the real world?
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