University of Edinburgh Business School Study Reveals More Facebook Friends Equals More Stress

by Jordan Richardson on November 29, 2012

The intersection of technology and human nature has always proved a fascinating topic, especially when some of the more tenuous connections are drawn. We’ve already seen studies on how people react when they’re without their smartphones and we even have various research items describing what Facebook means to married couples.

In the latest round of social psychology comes the study from the University of Edinburgh Business School that states that the more friends one has on Facebook, the more stress one receives from the social networking site. The connection between social media and anxiety is hardly new, of course.

This is particularly the case if you have a wide swath of friends from varying social groups. Because, according to the study, users present “versions” of themselves on Facebook that may not appeal to all of their friends and family, stress may result from trying to keep these strands from intersecting. To cite George Constanza, it’s a matter of “worlds colliding.”

“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 behaviour such as swearing, recklessness, drinking and smoking,” says the study.

Essentially, Facebook “generates stress” because you might post a picture of yourself doing shots with Las Vegas showgirls on your wall and may not realize that you’ve “friended” your 92-year-old grandmother. When she starts to ask you, in front of your other more progressive friends, who those women are and why your hands are placed firmly on that woman’s posterior…well, you get the picture.

Of course, it could (and should) be argued that this isn’t a matter about Facebook but a matter about human beings still not really knowing what’s appropriate and not appropriate to share with groups of people. As the recent hubbub over privacy settings reveals, many people are still getting used to the idea of the Internet. It seems to follow that some social anxiety would follow.

In that Facebook and other social networking sites are essentially tools of self-presentation, we are entering interesting social times.

What will the future look like when our present is filled with people asking their “friends” to describe them using a word that starts with W, for instance? How will this relentless ego-chasing, whether through a surge of vacation pictures or stories about our kids, impact our species over time? These are vital questions.

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