Being Popular on Facebook Comes With Its Drawbacks

Think twice before adding or accepting another Facebook friend. A recent report by the University of Edinburgh Business School found that the larger number of Facebook friends you have, the more likely social media will be a source of stress. Why stress? With so many competing groups and interests, there is a greater potential to offend with a post or a picture. Of particular anxiety comes with having employers or parents as friends. Add exes to the equation and the once fun platform can become even more anxiety-provoking. The research follows studies that suggest that Facebook is the second-most depressing activity cited by users (second only to recovery from illness) and that those who use the site heavily can suffer from “Facebook envy.” 

Researchers found that on average people are Facebook friends with seven different social circles: friends previously known offline (97 per cent), extended family (81 per cent), siblings (80 per cent), friends of friends (69 per cent) and colleagues (65 per cent). The report surveyed more than 300 people on Facebook, mostly students, with an average age of 21. With 21-years-old a distant memory for most young professionals, our social media stress may be multiplied as our greater life experiences have produced even more competing social circles. How many different circles of friends, business associates or fellow club or committee members can you count on your Facebook page? We are going to bet quite a few. 

According to the report, stress is caused when certain “friends” deem particular behaviour either referenced to or depicted in pictures ( i.e. smoking, drinking, or acting reckless) as negative. With an increasing amount of older people now using the site, many parents and, even some grandparents, have joined Facebook. While grandma and grandpa may typically see a polished and perfectly polite version of you, your tagged pictures of the out-of-control party from the weekend before may suggest you’re not a perfect angel after all. Your behaviour, dress, or even slang may alarm them, as their expectations may differ substantially from those of younger users.

According to the study, more than 55 per cent of parents follow their children on Facebook. When we asked a group of 10 Toronto-based YPs, however, a whopping 9 (or 90 per cent, if you will) of them reported to having at least one parent as a Facebook friend. Furthermore, all 10 Toronto YPs admit to being friends with at least one serious ex online. 

Personal social media platforms have the ability to have very real professional repercussions. When it comes to work issues, the stress may be even higher due to the potential repercussions, including termination of employment or difficulty securing employment. More than half of employers claim not to have hired someone based on their Facebook page, with social media checks in some cases as important as traditional background checks. 

Facebook has brought “ex anxiety” since its birth. Sometimes a log-in in the recent demise of a relationship is almost panic inducing in fear that one of your recent ex’s 100 mutual friends had posted a picture of said ex with a new fling, in the company of certain frenemies, or on that weekend away you were once supposed to be a part of. Surprisingly, however, the report discovered that more people are Facebook friends with their former partners than with their current SO. Only 56 per cent of users were friends with their SO online, compared with 64 per cent of exes. 

There are benefits to having employers, family and exes online. Intelligent posts, shared articles and general interests may increase the respect of an employer or coworker; having family members as friends cuts out the sometimes exhausting “catch up” during the holidays (Facebook does that job for you), allowing you to enjoy one another’s company instead. As for exes, well, we need to check in on them from time to time, right? 

The solution, of course, is to be strategic in privacy settings to control just who gets to see the pictures from the weekend, or the first pictures of you and your new SO as a couple. Shockingly, however, the study revealed that only one third of respondents use the listing privacy setting on their Facebook profile. In terms of Facebook envy, remember that Facebook provides a means for people present themselves in the best light possible, with the best job, clothes and life in general. Nothing is as good as it seems on Facebook. By the same token, nothing is usually as “bad.”