A recent study found that Facebook could be used to determine loneliness and occasional depression in social media users. Research from the study suggested that those who describe themselves as being lonely or depressed were likely to disclose more information on Facebook, as well as share more status updates than their popular counterparts.
During the study, researchers from Charles Sturt University in Australia collected data from 616 female Facebook users. By using a Facebook status search engine, the participants reported whether or not they felt lonely or connected to other people. Half of the participants were determined to be lonely while the other 308 were considered to be well-connected to others. The researchers then examined the privacy settings of the participants and discovered that those who reported loneliness were far more likely to reveal more private information about themselves than those who did not. The study did not find any other substantial associations between loneliness and other variables.
More than 79 percent of users who described themselves as being lonely, shared more personal information such as their address, languages spoken, hobbies, favorite books, and favorite movies compared to the 65 percent of users who did not consider themselves as lonesome. 98 percent of the participants self-described as being lonely shared their relationship status publicly. The study suggested that the people who felt lonely shared more on Facebook in an effort to make themselves available for connectivity and to reach out to more users so that they could fill the void within themselves virtually.
The co-founder of another massively popular social media site, Twitter, reported that the company was founded as a way for people to forge connections around the world and to keep in touch with one another so that they can feel a little less alone. However, revealing too much about one’s personal life over social media sites can sometimes be dangerous. Sharing that information publicly can make someone more vulnerable to cyber bullies, scammers, and identity thieves.
An attempt to overcome loneliness with Facebook may be counterintuitive as well. In September of last year, a study initiated by psychologist Dr. Ethan Cross from the University of Michigan revealed that social media, rather than bring people together, contributes to loneliness and can reduce overall satisfaction with life. The study found that technology is having a negative impact on the way people interact with each other and the way they perceive themselves. In the study, 82 participants had text messages sent to them five times a day during a two-week period telling them to follow a link to a survey about their Facebook use, their amount of in-person social interaction and their feelings of well-being in order to determine loneliness. The team of researchers discovered that the more time someone had spent on Facebook, the lower their life satisfaction rating was.
Although the study concluded that Facebook use could determine loneliness, the results can vary depending on the user. There are multiple reasons someone might share more information over social media than the average user, such as for marketing or business relations. However, it is important to be wary of disclosing certain personal information, as it can be highly problematic to do so.
By Laura Simmons