Two recent studies involving Facebook and feelings of loneliness appear to have come to different conclusions, further suggesting that Facebook can either increase or decrease a sense of belonging depending on an individual’s predispositions.
This first study, conducted by Charles Sturt University in Australia, argued that Facebook users who felt lonely were more likely to post personal information such as relationship status and hobbies, than users who felt connected.
The second, from The University of Queensland’s School of Psychology, looked at how Facebook communication impacts feelings of social belonging. Researchers found that active participation on Facebook was key in producing a sense of connectedness among social media users.
The University of Queensland conducted two separate studies. The first study revealed that not posting on Facebook for approximately two days had a negative impact on need fulfillment.
Specifically, after controlling for baseline levels of need fulfillment, participants in a “do-not-post” condition reported lower levels of belonging and meaningful existence.
The study conducted by Charles Sturt University, however, found that while lonely users were less likely to share opinion-based information like their religion and political views, connected users were almost twice as likely not to share any personal information.
The contradictions in these particular studies may have something do with the type of information shared.
Yeslam Al-Saggaf of Charles Sturt told The Huffington Post that lonely users might not share political and religious views for fear those views may be unpopular.
“On the other hand,” said Al-Saggaf, “they shared their relationship status, address and interests, hobbies and favorite things so like-minded people or those living nearby could approach them, allowing them to minimize their feeling of isolation.”
In the second University of Queensland experiment, participants in a “no feedback” condition felt less connected, thought other people were significantly less interested in their posts and demonstrated a significantly lower sense of need fulfillment than did those in the “feedback” condition.
Understanding how and why people use Facebook may eventually lead to a better understanding of how the network can positively affect mental health. But for now, the research remains contradictory. From The Huffington Post:
Last year, for example, a study found that poring over details of friends’ vacations, romantic milestones and work successes on Facebook can cause feelings of envy, loneliness and depression. And yet, “actively posting on Facebook is one of the key ways to attract emotional support [and] promote feelings of being accepted and appreciated by others,” Hanna Krasnova, an assistant professor at the University of Bern in Switzerland and a co-author of the study, told HuffPost.