Facebook makes lonely people lonelier, New Zealand study finds

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If you’re an introvert with a Facebook profile you may be doing more damage to your social capital than if you skipped the social network altogether.

New Zealand-based researchers looking at whether Facebook is beneficial for some and detrimental to others have found that looking at people’s wonderful lives on Facebook can make introverted people feel more alone than introverts who don’t use the site.

The study proposed that constant exposure to a stream of information from other people’s lives led to feelings of exclusion which could make introverted people more lonely.

Facebook “lives” tended to be more positive than real life, and curated in an attempt to represent people’s ideal selves.

Published in the New Zealand Journal of Psychology, researchers found social networking sites caused a type of “poor get poorer” effect – the lonely got lonelier.

Introverts felt more isolated when they did not actively engage with their Facebook friends but still passively consumed the information.

Extroverted people tended to write more status updates, were involved in more Facebook groups, had more Facebook friends and communicated with friends more than their introverted counterparts.

The researchers from the University of Auckland and Victoria University found those most at risk of feeling alienated were introverts with a Facebook profile.

Introverts without a profile didn’t feel so detached from social groups, while extroverts were found to feel a much stronger sense of social belonging whether they were on Facebook or not.

Those with a Facebook profile scored significantly higher on tests for extraversion, agreeableness, neuroticism and openness to experience and scored lower in conscientiousness when compared to those without a profile.

Data from more than 6000 people was analysed for the study, covering a range of ages and ethnic groups.

Social networking in New Zealand:

– About 65 per cent of New Zealand’s online population use sites such as Facebook

– Women were more likely than men to have a Facebook profile (two-thirds of women use Facebook compared to slightly less than half of men)

– People of Asian descent were more likely to have a Facebook profile, followed by Pacific Islanders, Maori and finally European New Zealanders

– Younger people were more likely to use Facebook though the average age of a NZ Facebook user is 45

– Stuff

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