Facebook users who are lonely are more likely to share personal information on the internet, according to a new study from Charles Sturt University in New South Wales, Australia.
In a study of more than 600 women, researchers found 98% percent of those who described themselves as “lonely” shared their “relationship status” on Facebook publicly.
“Both lonely and connected people share all kinds of information on Facebook,” said Yeslam Al-Saggaf, associate professor at CSU and the co-author of the study. “But more lonely people share sensitive information like relationship status, activities, favourite things and address compared to the connected ones.”
Social media interactions push individuals to “prove something” to their fellow users, he said. Numbers of friends, likes, shares and other interactions affect users’ psychological health negatively, sometimes pushing them to a condition the study calls “Facebook depression”.
Al-Saggaf’s study adds to a growing body of research that suggests a link between online social networking and mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety. Previous studies have demonstrated, for example, that elevated usage of social media websites is associated with high anxiety levels, as a result of the user’s increased fear of loneliness.
Dependence on social media has increased with the increasing capabilities such websites can offer their users to connect with their friends, according to another recent study conducted by The Australian Psychological Society on the impact of social media networks. Fifty-three percent of users between the ages of 18 and 30 said they felt they would lose a lot of friends if they stopped using social media.
Social media interactions can provide a sense of connection, but this sense of connection is different than the one you get in real life, research shows.
Loneliness online “can be more painful than sitting alone in a crowded school cafeteria or other real-life encounters that can make kids feel down because Facebook provides a skewed view of what’s really going on,” wrote Dr Gwenn O’Keefee in a recent report on the issue by the American Academy of Pediatrics. “Online, there’s no way to see facial expressions or read body language that provide context.”
The research is particularly pertinent for Egypt, which has the highest number of Facebook users in the Middle East, according to a regional study conducted by Galal & Karawi Management Consulting (G&K). The country ranks 19th worldwide for the number of social media users, with 11.4 million people logged on.
According to a report produced by the Ministry of Information in 2012, the figures more than doubled after 2010, when just 4.2 million Egyptians were using the social media service.
Asem Galal, managing partner for Galal & Karawi Management Consulting, attributed to surge to the 25 January Revolution in 2011. During this period, political and social activists used social networks like Facebook for discussions, announcements, and news reporting.
“Facebook and Twitter were extensively used as a platform for communication,” he said in a news release.