Do you equate a large number of Facebook friends with popularity? While a flock of followers on FB might seem like a sign of how cool you are, a new study shows that it is probably just causing you a whole load of stress. That’s right, if you involve lots of people in your online life, then all those “friends” can see your drunken photos, cringe-worthy updates and ever-changing relationship status. Do your boss and 25 colleagues really need to know that your boyfriend broke up with you again and you drowned your sorrows until 4am, before falling asleep in your late-night kebab? We think not.
Researchers from the University of Edinburgh found that the more people you befriend on Facebook, the more you are likely to annoy them – have you checked if anyone has defriended you lately? And it’s particularly (socially) dangerous when you invite parents, older relatives or employers to view your online persona.
And that’s what’s causing so many of us with large groups of Facebook friends to stress out. It’s hard to maintain a perfect image in real life, let alone on social networks where there are no filters and anyone can upload a photo of you, no matter how scandalous.
We all know the feeling: you get a notification of a recent “tag” and it’s a less than flattering pic, which you’d rather never saw the light of day. Your tummy drops and the mad scramble to de-tag ensues. That’s stressful. And the study says this kind of Facebook-related anxiety is increasing as more older people join the site and have different expectations to the younger (read: oversharing) users.
Ben Marder, author of the report, said: “Facebook used to be like a great party for all your friends where you can dance, drink and flirt. But now with your mum, dad and boss there the party becomes an anxious event full of potential social landmines.”
Scarily 55 percent of parents are Facebook friends with their children. Yep, your dad might be scrolling through those messy birthday party pics right now. Even more worrying is that over 50 percent of employers say they have avoided hiring someone because of things they’ve seen on their page. So you might think you’re more employable because of your shining LinkedIn profile, but alas Facebook could be undoing all your hard work. With 65 percent of people befriending colleagues on Facebook, your work persona can be very much shaped by your online one.
Researchers, who surveyed more than 300 Facebook users, also found that most people are FB friends with seven different social circles. And this gets tricky because in real life you can adjust your behaviour depending on which social group you’re hanging with at that time. But this isn’t possible on sites where you have one catch-all profile. And while there are settings that can control who sees what on your page, only a third of people use this feature.
Interestingly the study also found that more people are friends with their exes than their current boyfriends. Only 56 percent of people have befriended their current partner, compared with 64 percent of exes. Weird.
So while you might want to flaunt your fab new life all over you Facebook page for your exes’ sake, you need to remember your mum, your dad, siblings and employers are all watching too.