There seems to be an ongoing trend of people looking for the downsides of Facebook. Researchers seem to want to uncover the negative effects social media sites could have on our mental health. Which, of course, makes sense in a postmodern reflexive society where people engage in risk aversion. Any new type of technology is scrutinized to make sure it won’t cause any ‘avoidable’ harm. However, there have been researchers that looked at the benefits of Facebook use in different settings.
Facebook is a social environment in which its users can interact with one another. In such a setting, social capital can be accumulated, which is important in everyday life. Social capital is the resources that one can attain through relationships and interactions with others. Researchers sent out a survey to college students to find out whether Facebook can aid in acquiring social capital. They found that students maintained and formed new social capital through Facebook. Interestingly, these college students were able to stay in contact with old high school students using this social media website. These friendships, in turn, are of importance when it comes to attaining social capital, as these friends can provide more (social) information.¹
The more friends the better?
Other researchers looked at the amount of Facebook friends and the perceived social support of users. This hypothesis turned out to be supported by their data. This relationship between these two constructs was also associated with reduced stress and psychological well-being. The researchers speculate that a higher number of Facebook friends is a cue for people to assume that they are more connected with people, regardless of how strong these connections actually are. However, they also note that the number of Facebook friends can also be related to personality traits such as extraversion. This trait is also related to well-being. Therefore, the underlying mechanism for perceived social support could also be linked to personality traits or other factors.²
Staying closer to your authentic self on Facebook is associated with feeling more connected with other users. While straying away from your true self is linked to more stress. This is similar to findings from ‘real life’ settings where those who acted according to their true self in person also reported a better well-being.³
Different researchers found that Facebook can help users acquire online social support. This social support does not directly correlate with well-being, but the online support people get can help people take the step of looking for real-life support.4
1. Ellison, N. B., Steinfield, C., & Lampe, C. (2007). The benefits of Facebook “friends:” Social capital and college students’ use of online social network sites. Journal of Computer‐Mediated Communication, 12(4), 1143-1168.
2. Nabi, R. L., Prestin, A., & So, J. (2013). Facebook friends with (health) benefits? Exploring social network site use and perceptions of social support, stress, and well-being. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 16(10), 721-727.
3. Grieve, R., & Watkinson, J. (2016). The psychological benefits of being authentic on Facebook. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 19(7), 420-425.
4.Liu, C. Y., & Yu, C. P. (2013). Can Facebook use induce well-being?. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 16(9), 674-678.