STUDY: Can Facebook Make You Less Lonely?

By Justin Lafferty 

Facebook may have some negative effects on our mental well-being, but can posting status updates regularly make a person feel less lonely and more connected to the world? Researchers studied a small group of University of Arizona students, seeing how Facebook affected their moods, and finding that those who posted more frequently didn’t feel as lonely.

Fenne große Deters of the University of Berlin and Matthias R. Mehl of the University of Arizona recently authored a study, monitoring 86 students (who had an average of 495.3 Facebook friends) and tracking their loneliness while posting Facebook status updates.

During the control period, the students posted an average of 2.2 status updates per week. During the weeklong experiment, participants increased their activity by an average of 8.71 posts.

Researchers used a one-to-four loneliness scale developed by the University of California, Los Angeles — a rating of one meaning “I never feel this way,” and a four meaning, “I often feel this way.”

They found that the students who updated their Facebook statuses more often reported lower levels of loneliness:

Strangely enough, the researchers found that response to status updates (comments and likes) didn’t really play a hand in whether or not the students felt more or less lonely. Of the 545 status updates posted during the study, 79 percent received some kind of response. The researchers noted that comments only represented public social interaction, and did not make the students feel like they were any more connected to their friends. Deters and Mehl compared comments and likes versus in-person interaction to snacksvsersus a meal. They noted that private messages were not tracked within the study.

What made these students feel less lonely was self-disclosure. By sharing something about themselves, they were inviting their friends into their private lives, making the connection feel deeper.

Deters discussed the study in an email to LiveScience:

We got the idea to conduct this study during a coffee break sharing random stories about what friends had posted on Facebook. Wondering why posting status updates is so popular, we thought that it would be thrilling to study this new form of communication empirically.

Readers: Have you noticed that you feel happier when you’re more active on Facebook?

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.