Christy Matta M.A. is a trainer, consultant and writer. She is the author of “The Stress Response: How Dialectical Behavior Therapy Can Free ...Read More
Most of us who spend any time on a computer have at the very least scanned Facebook.
Maybe you got hooked when classmates contacted you while planning a reunion or you moved and wanted to keep touch with long-distance friends. Or maybe you’re part of the generation that has grown up with social media and Facebook is just one facet of that.
A whopping 1.06 Billion (yes, that’s billion with a B) use Facebook monthly, according to their 4th Quarter investor report. Certainly some of those people use the site rarely or sporadically, but according to an article in Monitor on Psychology, 500 million people use Facebook daily (March 2013). In fact at this time last year, people spent as much as 7 hours a month on Facebook according to the Nielson Report.
Why? People complain it’s a distractor, a time waster, a bad habit and that it is changing how we communicate, not always in a positive way.
So what sucks us in? Psychologists and communication researchers are exploring the popularity of Facebook and what we get out of social networking sites.
It started as a small site, appealing primarily to college students, but now 10 years after it’s inception you might find anyone on it. Those same college students, who are now in the workforce, professionals and parents as well as their parents, the people they work and socialize with and so many more.
One study suggests that our motivation for using Facebook stems from 2 needs:
- The need to belong
- The need to present ourselves
According to Hoffman, one of the authors of the study, Facebook satisfies both of these needs. By creating personal visible pages and interacting with others, we create social bonds. Studies have found that use of Facebook can decrease a sense of loneliness in first year college students and may even positively impact students’ satisfaction with college life.
Another study found that Facebook users tended to cope with feeling disconnected with others in their lives with the use of Facebook. Researchers have also suggested that because seeing our Facebook friends and actually count them up, especially when we have a lot of them and our connections are positive, can enhance our self-esteem. We have it right there in front of us, evidence that we are connected to others in the world.
What we post on Facebook is also of some significance. People tend to convey an image on Facebook that they also aspire to offline. For example, people who want to be perceived as hard working, tend to post information and images that support that presentation.
So what about all those inappropriate, offensive, wild or sexual posts? Those were also often posted to portray a certain image, usually in an attempt to impress a particular peer group.
It’s not likely the online social networking is going anywhere, particularly if it is fulfilling important needs, such as a need to belong and a need for self-expression . And with it’s expansion, we have the ability to gain useful connection and information from the growing diversity of people on the site and we also face the possibility of wasting time, becoming distracted from our offline lives and falling into problematic communication patterns.