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Are people being made to feel lonelier by the growing use of social networks? What developments can be expected if children today have no real friends (only Facebook friends), and if online chat replaces conversation?



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Photo: Alexandra H. /

Current research has not yet come up with a definite answer regarding the link between Facebook use, loneliness and other markers of emotional well-being. It appears that resulting emotional outcomes largely depend on the specific uses of Social Media. For example, researcher have revealed that passive use of Facebook may exacerbate loneliness. At the same time, directed communication was found to have a favorable effect, reducing these negative feelings. By and large, our analysis of past research demonstrates that active uses of Social Media (e.g. posting) tends to lead to better well-being, while passive use is associated with ambiguous outcomes, leading among others to envy and, as a consequence, reduced life satisfaction.
Since chatting belongs to a more active mode of Facebook participation, positive outcomes can be expected. At the same time, however, chatting is time consuming and, hence, can interfere with academic activities. However, more research is needed to gain a better understanding into the dynamics of this phenomenon. Current research conducted by the group of German researchers is likely to shed more light on these issues, as it relies on reliable diary-based measures to capture Facebook use by teenagers in Germany.

This question was answered by Dr Hanna Krasnova, assistant professor at the Institute of Information Systems at the University of Bern (Switzerland).