Psychology researchers have found that college students who post more status updates than average on social networking site Facebook usually feel less lonely in a week, even though no one pressed the “Like” button on their posts or commented on it.
Fenne Deters, a psychology researcher of the University of Berlin (Universitat Berlin), told LiveScience that what stirred them to conduct the study happened over coffee break, where they shared random stories on their friends’ posts on Facebook.
She said the excitement to study this new kind of communication by trial and error popped up because of their deliberate discussion on why posting status updates on the social network is regarded with high approval by the public.
Deters and her associate surveyed around 100 college students, all of whom are Facebook users, at the University of Arizona. They published the study in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science
The initial surveys of the study filled out by the undergraduates assessed three levels: depression, happiness, and loneliness.
The respondents allowed the researchers to access their Facebook profiles through a dummy user created for the study that befriended them.
Deters’ team sent an analysis of average weekly status updates to the students via online memos on their walls, and some were ordered to increase the number of statuses they posted over a one-week period.
At the end of each day, the participants filled out a short questionnaire on the Internet regarding their level of social connection and mood.
The researchers found that the students they ordered to post statuses above the normal rate felt less lonely throughout the week, as opposed to the group who maintained their pace on their social media habit.
Deters and her colleague wrote that happiness and depression levels remained in its original state, which suggests the effect only applies to experienced loneliness.
The drop in loneliness levels was associated to the growth of feeling more linked to society, which the researchers think is the reason why status updating have its positive effects.
The loneliness levels were not dependent on whether the status updates gained clicks of the “Like” button or comments from friends on Facebook.
The team wrote that it is wrong to presume irresponsiveness as a kind of rejection, but posting a status update could help people feel more socially connected.
Facebook users usually think about their target audience when they write something smart on their statuses.
The researchers believe that the simple thought of what to post for their Facebook friends to see can have a “social snacking” effect.