How often should you update your Facebook status?
Next time you're home alone and get that nagging temptation to dial up an ex, pull out your laptop and open Facebook instead. A new study at the University of Arizona finds you can diminish feelings of loneliness simply by updating your status more often than you usually would.
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Researchers polled 100 college students about their Facebook habits, as well as their current levels of loneliness, happiness, and depression. The researchers asked some of the participants to post an increased number of statuses throughout the weeklong study, and others to post statuses at their normal rate.
At the end of each day, students were surveyed about their mood and about how social they felt. While the participants who updated their Facebook the same amount didn't experience any mood or social swings, those who posted more frequently ended up feeling less lonely and more connected to their circle of friends. (Be cautious of who your pals are--Here's Why You Shouldn't Have More Than 354 Facebook Friends.)
The reason: While sitting behind a computer screen might seem isolating, updating your status actually keeps friends on the brain when you can't see them in person. "While posting, students are thinking about their Facebook friends, who are eventually going to read the status update," says study co-author Fenne grosse Deters, a Ph.D. candidate at the Free University of Berlin. Those friends may then decide to call you, message you, and skip the small-talk part of the conversation since they've already read your updates, says Deters.
Think of it like "social snacking." "Similar to a snack temporarily reducing your hunger until your next meal, posting status updates may help attenuate your feelings of loneliness for a certain amount of time," Deters says. But you can't get your fix on every social network. "Tweets to thousands of followers you don't know personally might not work," she says, since social networks with a wider reach like Twitter are probably too impersonal for you to see any benefits. (Case in point: The Dangers of Tweeting While Eating.)
For posting pointers, Deters says it's too early in the game to know the exact number of statuses to cure social withdrawals, but suggests throwing up at least one or two a day until you hit a number that works for you. Amuse and inform, but don't post what you had for lunch or the color of the tie you chose this morning. Anything too trivial, and you could see a reverse effect. While not a research-based fact, Deters informally notes that flooding friends' newsfeeds with useless information "will probably make you lonelier in the long-term." Read: Too much nonsense annoys your Facebook friends, so they may want to forget they know you.
However, don't worry if your status isn't a witty gem every time. The study found that you still get the connection benefits no matter how many "likes" or comments you manage to pull in. Make those connections more everlasting than ever with the 36 Facebook Rules You Must Know.
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