Does having hundreds of friends on Facebook make you feel more wanted? According to new research, possibly not. Just seeing our online friends’ holidays, nights out laughing with others can make it seem as if everyone is having a better time than us. And in fact the truth is that rather than helping us make friends, it could be making us feel more lonely…
According to the research reported by The Sunday Times, the greater number of physical face-to-face interactions a person has, the less lonely they feel. And the main problem is Facebook replaces these face-to-face meetings with online ones.
The findings were revealed following research carried out by John Cacioppo, an expert on loneliness and director of the Centre for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience at Chicago University.
He and his team asked students to respond to statements such as ‘I feel isolated’ and ‘no-one really knows me well’. And they discovered those who felt the most lonely also ranked highest for going on the internet and frequenting Facebook, chat rooms, online games and dating sites. They also had less daily physical face-to-face contact with people.
While Mr Cacioppo says he accepts many people simply use Facebook as a tool to keep in contact with those they already regularly see anyway, he adds: “There is research that says when people become lonely and isolated they are more likely to use Facebook as a replacement.”
This is backed up by another study which claims such people are also more likely to become addicted to Facebook.
“For the extrovert, Facebook is an extension of the personality and they will probably use it to increase their face-to-face encounters,” British psychologist and Broadcaster Anjula Mutanda tells the paper, “but introverted people may use it as a substitute for those contacts. Introverted people may see it as a tentative way of connecting with people because they have social anxieties about going out and doing that for real.”
Facebook can make you feel ‘discontented with your own life.’
The psychologist adds that Facebook can prove a competitive world and that feeling everyone has more friends than you, more comments than you or is having a better time than you can make you feel discontented with your lot.
“Facebook is a competitive world,’ she says, “it can make lonely people feel lonelier and more isolated because they are not getting up to what everyone else is doing on Facebook. They see people going on holiday for example, and feel that they should go there as well. Generally we tend to feel more lonely because we are in a more competitive world.”
One in ten Britons feels lonely.
The article adds that a report in 2010 from the Mental Health Foundation revealed one in ten Britons feel lonely – and incredibly almost 60% of those aged between 18 – 34 spoke of feeling lonely often or sometimes, compared with 35% of those aged over 55. Many people put this down to our modern lives – more single families, more people working away rather than down the road in their community and more people working at home rather than in offices with colleagues. Then, due to our busy lives, we don’t have time to go out anymore for the drink down the pub with friends or even to see families – instead, we sit at home talking to friends on our computers, using Facebook…
But other studies show Facebook helps with friendships
The Sunday Times says it asked Facebook to comment and they said other studies had come to different conclusions. For example, another study has found Facebook users more trusting than others, had more close relationships and actually had more support through use of their site. You might also get to know people you’d never usually had met via Facebook. For example if you’ve been through a traumatic experience you can join groups where others have been through the same thing, you can also share your feelings with others via Facebook – there’s nothing better than enjoying the shared bond with others who like the same music, food or fashions as you.
The privacy issue
Others point out there is less privacy even between friends now because of Facebook. “We don’t have net curtains any more, we have net facebook,” says the psychologist, “you can check on people, look at their photograph and see their status; whether they are still with their partner of not.”
Whatever your thoughts, the internet has changed the way we all react within our world. Whether it is a good or a bad thing probably depends on how you use it.
Is Facebook a good or a bad thing for relationships and is it true that it can make you feel lonelier? Let us know what you think below…