A study published by researchers at Edinburgh Napier University stated that Facebook users with more friends suffer more stress and “neurotic limbo” from feeling they have to continually update and amuse their larger audiences. I was contacted by The Telegraph and asked to provide comment.
Although results did indicate that those taking part in the study reported feelings of ‘anxiety’ and ‘stress’ through using Facebook my main concern, which is often the case with academic research, is that study participants were what are referred to as an ‘opportunity sample’. This essentially means that they are people available to take part in the study at that particular time and in that particular place rather than a specific group of people selected to be representative of the population the study seeks to understand.
In academic studies, opportunity samples are typically students and as such are often skewed most obviously in age, but also in other ways e.g. socio-demographically. Furthermore, students are usually unemployed and consequently use Facebook, the internet and other related technologies differently to the way in which someone older or in full time employment might. This is before we even begin to discuss potential differences in usage between people living in different countries or from different cultures. Consequently students represent a very specific group of people who do not behave, think or feel as the majority of the population would. In my opinion that makes the findings from this study certainly interesting but not necessarily true for all Facebook users.