Researchers Find Facebook Use May Predict Alcohol Use And Anxiety

Peter Suciu for — Your Universe Online

The world´s largest social network has been the subject of a movie, as well as a nonstop source of news since its IPO last May. Facebook, which has nearly one billion users worldwide and has become a daily activity for hundreds of millions of people, could also allow individuals with high levels of anxiousness, who might be opposed to more social or public settings, to meet and connect with others.

This is the findings of a new study conducted by Russell Clayton, a first year doctoral student at the University Of Missouri School Of Journalism, which looked at how anxiety as well as alcohol use could possibly predict emotion connectedness with the social network.

This study, which Clayton conducted through the Psychological Research on Information and Media Effects (PRIME) Lab, was published in the Journal of Computers in Human Behavior.

Clayton´s master thesis looked at how emotionally involved Facebook users became with the site, as well as their connection with other people. His research, which was conducted under the supervision of Randall Osborne, Brian Miller and Crystal Oberle of Texas State University, surveyed more than 225 college freshmen students and focused on their respective perceived levels of loneliness, anxiousness, alcohol use, and marijuana use in the prediction of emotional connectedness to Facebook as well as their Facebook connections.

Participants in Clayton´s study reportedly had, on average, between 301-400 Facebook friends, and spent an average of one hour per day on Facebook.

The study found that those students who reported higher levels of anxiousness and alcohol use appeared to be more emotionally connected with Facebook.

“People who perceive themselves to be anxious are more likely to want to meet and connect with people online, as opposed to a more social, public setting,” Clayton said. “Also, when people who are emotionally connected to Facebook view pictures and statuses of their Facebook friends using alcohol, they are more motivated to engage in similar online behaviors in order to fit in socially.”

The research findings also suggest that students who reported higher levels of loneliness and anxiousness relied on the social network platform as a way to connect with others.

Clayton and his fellow researchers found that students who had reported high levels of perceived loneliness were not, in fact, emotionally connected to Facebook, but rather used Facebook as a tool to connect with others.

Clayton added that because alcohol use is generally viewed as a normal activity for college-aged students, and thus deemed socially acceptable, that increased use of it further caused an increase in the emotional connectedness to the social network. However, marijuana use predicted the opposite, with a lack of emotional connectedness to Facebook.

This could be that marijuana usage is less socially accepted, even among the college aged.

“Marijuana use is less normative, meaning fewer people post on Facebook about using it,” Clayton added. “In turn, people who engage in marijuana use are less likely to be emotionally attached to Facebook.”

Clayton´s research did not look at other social media platforms such as Twitter or MySpace, so there is no way to know whether anxious people tweet more or if people are “drunk posting” photos on Pinterest.

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