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Is Facebook messing with our self-control, credit debt and weight? Pitt-Columbia study says yes

Facebook alert: The social media site may adversely influence your behavior, reducing your self-control when it comes to diet and credit card debt.
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and Columbia Business School have taken it upon themselves to study the underlying psychology of the celebrated social media platform.
Titled “Are Close Friends the Enemy? Online Social Networks, Self-Esteem and Self-Control,” it’s the first academic look at the effects of Facebook on users general well-being, says coauthor Andrew Stephen, assistant professor of business administration and marketing at Pitt’s Katz Graduate School of Business.
Research to date has suggested positive links between Facebook and self-esteem, says Stephen. People on Facebook generally feel better about themselves, more connected to one another and the world.
To test this claim, researchers split users in several groups and monitored their behavior. What they found is that people who have strong ties to Facebook—those who communicate primarily with close friends on the site—are susceptible to a decline in self-control.
This group shows a greater risk of having higher body-mass indexes and higher levels of credit card debt. This finding held true no matter what the age of the study participant.
Whether this is because they are online,--shopping or eating while they are on Facebook--was not determined, but it could indeed be part of the reason, Stephen admits.
Conversely, those who interact on Facebook primarily with acquaintances—those whom they don’t know as well—are not at the same risk.
Most of the Facebook studies to date focus on the marketing and business side of social media use. Of the few psychological studies done, most say that users are happier despite a risk of feeling left out or not included.
“There’s a flipside to this important communication and marketing tool. While users are not sentenced to it for life, they can become aware and compensate for it in various ways, making better eating choices and spending decisions,” he says.
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Andrew Stephen, Pitt’s Katz Graduate School of Business

Image of Andrew Stephen copyright Brian Cohen, Pop City
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