More Facebook friends = more stress, poll finds

We all want more pals, but a Scottish survey suggests you should think twice before accepting your mom's friend request.

Tim Hornyak
Crave freelancer Tim Hornyak is the author of "Loving the Machine: The Art and Science of Japanese Robots." He has been writing about Japanese culture and technology for a decade. E-mail Tim.
Tim Hornyak
2 min read
But who wants to swim in wall-to-wall friends? Facebook

The whole point of Facebook is to keep up with your friends, right? You might think that adding friends means having more fun, but a small Scottish study says it's adding to our stress.

A report by the University of Edinburgh Business School has found that increasing friends -- specifically different groups of friends -- increases the potential for stress.

It's hardly earth-shattering news, but including parents or employers as Facebook friends resulted in the greatest increase in anxiety, according to the report.

"Stress arises when a user presents a version of [herself or himself] on Facebook that is unacceptable to some of their online 'friends,' such as posts displaying behavior such as swearing, recklessness, drinking, and smoking," the university said in a release.

"The more social circles a person is linked to online the more likely social media will be a source of stress."

Researchers surveyed 300 people, mostly students around 21 years old. They found that Facebook users have an average of seven different social circles.

"The most common group was friends known offline (97 percent added them as friends online), followed by extended family (81 percent), siblings (80 percent), friends of friends (69 percent), and colleagues (65 percent)."

The research follows studies suggesting Facebook is the second-most depressing activity cited by users, just under recovery from illness, and that those who frequent the site can suffer from Facebook envy.

Another finding from the Edinburgh poll is that more users are Facebook friends with former partners than their current boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse. Also, only one-third of respondents said they use the listing privacy setting on their profile, which controls how information is seen by different types of friends.

"Facebook used to be like a great party for all your friends where you can dance, drink and flirt," report author Ben Marder of the Business School was quoted as saying. "But now with your Mum, Dad, and boss there, the party becomes an anxious event full of potential social landmines."

And we've all seen what the explosions look like: riot police.