The more Facebook ‘friends’ you have, the more likely you are to feel stressed out by the social networking site, according to a study by Scottish researchers.
Psychologists from Edinburgh Napier University quizzed around 200 students on their use of the phenomenally successful site, which now has more than 500 million users worldwide.
And they concluded that for a significant number of users the negative effects of Facebook outweighed the benefits of staying in touch with friends and family.
"The results threw up a number of paradoxes,” said Dr Kathy Charles, who led the study. "Our data also suggests that there is a significant minority of users who experience considerable Facebook-related anxiety, with only very modest or tenuous rewards.
“And we found it was actually those with the most contacts, those who had invested the most time in the site, who were the ones most likely to be stressed.”
Of the students who filled in an online survey, 12 per cent said Facebook made them feel anxious and 32 per cent said rejecting friend requests led to feelings of guilt and discomfort. Some 10 per cent admitted disliking receiving friend requests.
“An overwhelming majority of respondents reported that the best thing about Facebook was ‘keeping in touch’, often without any further explanation,” said Dr Charles.
"But many also told us they were anxious about withdrawing from the site for fear of missing important social information or offending contacts.
"Like gambling, Facebook keeps users in a neurotic limbo, not knowing whether they should hang on in there just in case they miss out on something good."
She said other causes of tension included purging unwanted contacts, the pressure to be inventive and entertaining, and having to use appropriate etiquette for different types of ‘friends’.
Dr Charles added: "The other responses we got in focus groups and one-to-one interviews suggests that the survey figures actually under-represent aspects of stress and anxiety felt by some Facebook users, whether it’s through feelings of exclusion, pressure to be entertaining, paranoia or envy of others’ lifestyles."