Archive for the ‘Research’ Category

Study: Most of Your Facebook Friends Are Not Real Friends

Dunbar’s number, named for anthropologist Robin Dunbar, proposes that the number of meaningful relationships a human being can maintain is capped at around 150. During the early days of Facebook’s rise, commentators tried to apply Dunbar’s number to our ever-loosening online definition of “friend.” Now Dunbar himself has undertaken a study of Facebook and discovered the average person only has four “real” friends on Facebook, and around 14 people who give a crap at all. Depressing!

In an effort to determine whether social media can break past the apparent limit on our real-life friend networks, Dunbarsurveyed more than 3,000 Facebook users, with an average “friend” count that shouldn’t be surprising: 150. But of those 150 friends, people said they could only count on 4.1 in an “emotional crisis,” and that only 13.6 were close friends who could be counted on for sympathy.

And the “support cliques” and “sympathy groups” didn’t seem to get larger as people acquired more Facebook friends, Dunbar found: “Respondents who had unusually large networks did not increase the numbers of close friendships they had, but rather added more loosely defined acquaintances into their friendship circle simply because most social media sites do not allow one to differentiate between these layers.”

The numbers Dunbar observed on Facebook fall right within the ranges he found in real-life friendships, leading him to conclude that software hasn’t yet increased the human brain’s capacity for maintaining social relationships. As he put it, “online social networks remain subject to the same cognitive demands of maintaining relationships that limit offline friendships.”

He also found that social media alone isn’t enough to maintain our close friendships. Talking online can slow down the decay of a relationship, but if we don’t see our best friends face-to-face, they’ll eventually fade from our group of four, to the group of about 14, to part of our 150, and eventually out into the ether of our 500 loose social contacts.

Technology can do a lot of things, but it still can’t give us more friends.



Study: How many Facebook friends are real friends?

Research: The Third Wheel -The Impact of Twitter Use on Relationship Infidelity and Divorce

The Third Wheel -The Impact of Twitter Use on Relationship Infidelity and Divorce (PDF)

The purpose of this study was to examine how social networking site (SNS) use, specifically Twitter use, influences negative interpersonal relationship outcomes. This study specifically examined the mediational effect of Twitter-related conflict on the relationship between active Twitter use and negative relationship outcomes, and how this mechanism may be contingent on the length of the romantic relationship. A total of 581 Twitter users aged 18 to 67 years (Mage=29, SDage=8.9) completed an online survey questionnaire. Moderation–mediation regression analyses using bootstrapping methods indicated that Twitter-related conflict mediated the relationship between active Twitter use and negative relationship outcomes. The length of the romantic relationship, however, did not moderate the indirect effect on the relationship between active Twitter use and negative relationship outcomes. The results from this study suggest that active Twitter use leads to greater amounts of Twitter-related conflict among romantic partners, which in turn leads to infidelity, breakup, and divorce. This indirect effect is not contingent on the length of the romantic relationship. The current study adds to the growing body of literature investigating SNS use and romantic relationship outcomes.

Social Media Blamed For 50% Of Breakups

Social media contributes to the demise of most romantic relationships nowadays, according to a survey of 1,953 Brits, who had all ended a serious relationship or marriage in the last two years — meaning they were the “dumper,” not the “dumpee.” That number includes various types of married and unmarried relationships, as 24% of the respondents had been married, 41% had been living together, and 35% had been living separately before parting ways.

Social media was certainly “in the mix” for a good number of the breakups: 79% of respondents said they were using social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram during their relationships, and 36% had met their ex online, including dating sides. Now the key figures: 54% said they felt that social media played a role in the breakup, with 34% saying their ex met someone new on social media, and 17% complaining their ex ignored them in favor of social media.

Social media also played a role in breakups by giving people a false sense of confidence, with 23% of respondents saying they entered a relationship believing they knew the person better than they did, given their social media profiles. There was also a comparison component: 12% said that seeing other happy couples on social media led them to realize they weren’t happy in their own relationship.

These findings echo some other survey results. In March 2013, a survey of 2,000 men and women in the U.S. and the U.K. by Havas Worldwide found that 50% knew someone whose romantic relationship started online, while 25% knew someone whose offline relationship ended because of their actions online.

Here’s an idea: Since it’s helping start and end the relationship anyway, why not tie everything up in a neat little package by breaking up over social media? In May 2013, a survey of 4,000 women around the world by AVG Technologies found that 19% of women ages 18-25 said they have ended a relationship by posting on Facebook, while 38% of women in the same age-range said they have broken up via text message.


‘Unfriending’ someone on Facebook has real-life consequences: study

Forty percent of people in a recent study said they would steer clear of someone who unfriended them on the popular social networking site. The top reason for unfriending? ‘Frequent, unimportant posts.’

“Unfriend” someone on Facebook whose posts you find annoying? A new study finds that that person may avoid you, forever.

Study author Christopher Sibona, a computer science doctoral student at the University of Colorado in Denver, says that while a lot of people use social networks as a source of entertainment, your Facebook actions “can have real world consequences.”


He found that 40 percent of people surveyed said they would steer clear of anyone in real life who had unfriended them on Facebook. Another 10 percent were unsure. Women said they would avoid contact more than men.

The study, published this month by the Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, was based on 582 survey responses gathered via Twitter.

Sibona outlines the top four reasons people are unfriended on Facebook:

1. Frequent, unimportant posts
2. Polarizing posts usually about politics or religion
3. Inappropriate posts involving sexist, racist remarks
4. Being boring: drab posts about kids, food, etc.

However, being unfriended can trigger feelings of ostracism, which can have “important psychological consequences for those to whom it occurs.”


Average teenager has never met quarter of Facebook friends by Mark Sweney

Girls send more than 220 texts a week, and 12- to 15-year-olds spend 17 hours a week on internet, research shows

The average 12- to 15-year-old has never met one in four of their “friends” on social networking websites such as Facebook, according to new research.

Telecoms and media regulator Ofcom’s annual Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes Report also found that teenage girls are the UK’s texting champions, sending more than 220 a week – a third more than boys.

The regulator’s latest research revealed that 12- to 15-year-olds on average spend 17 hours a week on the internet, matching TV viewing for the first time, and that potentially well over a third of three- and four-year-olds use the internet for TV and games.

More than 40% of five- to 15-year-olds who have internet access have a social networking profile, rising to 80% among 12- to 15-year-olds.

The latter age group has an average of 286 online friends and 93% of them claim they are confident they know about online safety.

Yet Ofcom’s report found that 12- to 15-year-old’s have not met an average of 25% of the friends they have made on sites such as Facebook, an average of 72 strangers per child.

“Children are not just using more media, they are also adopting some forms [of it] at a very young age,” said Claudio Pollack, consumer group director at Ofcom.

The report found that texting is most popular among 12- to 15-year-olds, who send an average of almost 200 texts a week, more than double the 91 that Ofcom’s report found last year.

Girls aged 12 to 15 are the most prolific texters, sending an average of 221 messages a week, 35% more than their male counterparts. This is more than four times the UK average of 50 texts per week.

There has been a 50% rise in smartphone ownership among this group year on year, with almost two thirds of 12- to 15-year-olds now owning one, according to Ofcom.

“Areas such as texting and smartphone ownership [among teenagers] are fast outstripping the general population,” said Pollack. “This highlights the challenge that some parents face in keeping up with their children when it comes to technology, and in understanding what they can do to protect children.”

Almost 80% of parents claim that they have rules about their children’s internet usage, although less than half have parental controls installed on their home computers.


Report: Smartphone Compulsion Leads to New Form of Etiquette

Are people getting compulsive about their smartphones? The results of a survey released yesterday by mobile app developer Lookout suggests so.

Analyzing trends in emotions and behavior related to smartphones in its “Mobile Mindset Study,”

Lookout found that as people increasingly come to rely on their smartphones, they are increasingly checking them while in bed, in the bathroom, at the dinner table and while driving.

According to the results of the survey:

  • 58% of smartphone owners said they don’t go an hour without checking their phone
  • 54% of smartphone owners said they check their phones while lying in bed: before they go to sleep, after they wake up
  • Nearly 4 out of 10 people (39%) check their phones while using the bathroom

Growing usage is also challenging existing etiquette, according to Lookout:

  • 30% check their phones during a meal
  • 24% check their phones while driving
  • Nearly 1 in 10 (9%) check their phones during religious services at a house of worship

There’s even a psychological term that’s been engendered as people’s attachment to mobile phones grows to the point where extreme fear sets in if they’re without one: nomophobia.

  • Lookout’s survey found that 94% of people are concerned about losing their phone
  • When asked to select which feeling they best identified with when they lost their phone, 73% reported feeling “panicked” and 14% reported feeling “desperate”

“Our phones are our lifeline, from sharing photos with social networks to shopping and managing bank accounts,” said Alicia diVittorio, Lookout’s mobile safety advocate. “The findings establish that our attachment to smartphones is driving a new mobile mindset. Our behaviors, emotions and social interactions are impacted by smartphones, to the extent that they now play an important role in our value systems.”

When it comes to protecting mobile phones, Lookout has the following recommendations:

  • Don’t lose it: Keep your smartphone in a zipped pocket or bag when you’re on the move and scan your area when leaving public places to make sure you don’t leave it behind
  • Keep your power: Make sure you charge your battery before you leave the house or keep a charger in the car – not only will it keep your phone alive, but it will help to track it down if you misplace it
  • Keep it safe: Download an app like Lookout so you can find your phone if you lose it, lock & wipe your data if it cannot be recovered and backup your personal information



The Psychology of Being Unfriended on Facebook by Dave Copeland

Social scientists are increasingly looking at online friendships and trying to figure out if they carry the same emotional baggage that real-world friendships do. A preliminary study suggests that breaking up, even if it’s on Facebook, is hard to do.

The more you use Facebook, the more likely you are to experience “rumination and negative emotion” when someone unfriends you, according to a study published in the July 2012 edition of the scholarly journal Computers in Human Behavior. The study by Chapman University researchers Jennifer L. Bevan, Jeanette Pfyl and Brett Barclay is one of the first to look at the psychological consequences of so-called relationship termination on social networks.

Other factors that increased the pain of being unfriended included:

How close the person was to the person that had removed them from their friend list.
Whether they were able to figure out who unfriended them, as opposed to just seeing a drop in the number of active friends they had.
Who initiated the initial friend request.

The researchers also measured people’s perceptions on why they had been unfriended, asking if they felt it was because they posted too frequently on Facebook; posted polarizing views; made crude comments; if they had been unfriended for an upsetting, offline event; or because the person did not know them well.

“Intense Facebook usage may mean that users are particularly invested in their relationships with their Facebook friends and thus may respond with greater rumination and negative emotion when they lose one of these friends, which compromises how they are presenting themselves and being perceived by others online,” the researchers concluded.
When Being Unfriended Hurts Most

While the most common reason given for being unfriended was an offline event, people experienced the most negative emotion when they believed they were unfriended for Facebook-related reasons, such as posting too frequently, posting about polarizing topics or making crude comments.

People also seemed to be hurt more when they had made the initial friend request and were later unfriended by the recipient. “To some extent, being the individual who initiates the Facebook friendship – a clear, direct online act that is signified with a marker – places an individual in a less powerful position, as they must wait and see if their friend request is accepted, rejected or simply ignored. Individuals who are unfriended by someone they initially ‘friended’ may wonder why the unfriender even accepted the friend request, and such thoughts could give rise to rumination and negative emotion,” the researchers wrote.

The researchers found that people who spent more time on Facebook were most likely to be hurt when a Facebook friendship went south. That seemed to stem from the notion that those people, by spending more time on Facebook, had more invested in the online friendships.
The Parent Trap

Generally, people were most hurt when unfriended by someone they considered to be close to: family members, and current or former friends or romantic partners. To a certain extent, former romantic partners expected to be unfriended in certain circumstances.

The one differentiation from the above patterns was a user’s parents. The researchers noted “some close relational partners, such as parents, can be unwelcome Facebook friends for undergraduates… how relationships that are close offline are uniquely negotiated on [social networks] seems to be evolving.”

It may also suggest people view relationships with people they see regularly offline as different in an online context.


Digital Natives Are Slow to Pick Up Nonverbal Cues

If you’re a digital native, you should be aware that the internet may have partially rewired your brain in such a way that when you meet people face to face, you’re less capable of figuring out what they’re thinking.

No, I’m not joking. There’s a significant amount of scientific literature on this. Compared with people who didn’t grow up using computers and the internet, you may be slower to pick up on nonverbal cues such as facial expressions, tones of voice, and body language.

That could be a liability if you want to work in a field such as consulting, financial advising, and diplomacy that requires face-to-face interactions. The trick, if you’re looking for a job in areas such as these, is to be aware of your possible shortcomings and try to compensate for them.

Research on the brain’s response to electronic media is fascinating, and not a little disturbing. On the plus side, it suggests that digital natives have higher baseline activity in the part of the brain governing short-term memory, the sorting of complex information, and the integration of sensations and thoughts — so, in certain respects, computers make you smarter. As if to underline that point, IQ scores are on the increase in the United States as the number of digital natives rises, and people’s ability to multitask without errors is improving.

But other research suggests that excessive, long-term exposure to electronic environments is reconfiguring young people’s neural networks and possibly diminishing their ability to develop empathy, interpersonal relations, and nonverbal communication skills. One study indicates that because there’s only so much time in the day, face-to-face interaction time drops by nearly 30 minutes for every hour a person spends on a computer. With more time devoted to computers and less to in-person interactions, young people may be understimulating and underdeveloping the neural pathways necessary for honing social skills. Another study shows that after long periods of time on the internet, digital natives display poor eye contact and a reluctance to interact socially.

Are digital natives really lacking the interpersonal skills necessary for certain types of jobs? An executive of a U.S. wealth-management firm told me that after the financial collapse in 2008, some of the bright young advisers were communicating with wiped-out clients via emails that said, essentially, “Sorry, we can’t help you.” Those who did meet with clients had little time for them and gave the impression that they weren’t interested in hearing clients’ stories. They seemed unable to empathize. So the firm let these employees go, replacing them with older advisers who were willing to sit down, look clients in the eye, and discuss matters face to face. That’s just one anecdote, but it resonates with HR executives I’ve spoken to in a variety of businesses that rely on building trust with customers.

So if you’re a digital native and you’re looking for a position in a field that requires human interaction, you’ve got your work cut out for you, and the first hurdle is landing the job. A few points to consider:

  • Your interviewer may be specifically looking for evidence that you’re willing to make eye contact. Engage the interviewer — show a lively interest. This may not come easily.
  • The interviewer also may be looking for evidence of your ability to pick up on nonverbal cues. Watch for and react to shifts in tone of voice or body language. One study suggests that 55% of person-to-person communication is nonverbal.
  • Make clear that you understand the importance of face-to-face meetings and that you’re willing to sit down with people. If an interviewer or a questionnaire asks how you’d contact someone in a potentially fraught situation, don’t assume that email is the correct answer.

And once you get the job? That’s a whole other subject. Some researchers say the neurological changes wrought by computer use are reversible; others disagree. Even if they’re not, digital natives can train themselves to recognize the limitations of email and Facebook and choose face-to-face meetings if appropriate. They can also continually remind themselves that they may be a bit lacking in the ability to pick up on nonverbal cues — and that they need to make a special effort to pay attention.


Study: Multitasking hinders youth social skills

(CNN) — FaceTime, the Apple video-chat application, is not a replacement for real human interaction, especially for children, according to a new study.

Tween girls who spend much of their waking hours switching frantically between YouTube, Facebook, television and text messaging are more likely to develop social problems, says a Stanford University study published in a scientific journal on Wednesday.

Young girls who spend the most time multitasking between various digital devices, communicating online or watching video are the least likely to develop normal social tendencies, according to the survey of 3,461 American girls aged 8 to 12 who volunteered responses.

The study only included girls who responded to a survey in Discovery Girls magazine, but results should apply to boys, too, Clifford Nass, a Stanford professor of communications who worked on the study, said in a phone interview. Boys’ emotional development is more difficult to analyze because male social development varies widely and over a longer time period, he said.

“No one had ever looked at this, which really shocked us,” Nass said. “Kids have to learn about emotion, and the way they do that, really, is by paying attention to other people. They have to really look them in the eye.”

The antidote for this hyper-digital phenomenon is for children to spend plenty of time interacting face-to-face with people, the study found. Tweens in the study who regularly talked in person with friends and family were less likely to display social problems, according to the findings in the publication Developmental Psychology.

“If you eschew face-to-face communication, you don’t learn critical things that you have to learn,” Nass said. “You have to learn social skills. You have to learn about emotion.”

The Stanford researchers were not able to determine a magic number of hours that children should spend conversing per week, Nass said. Social skills are typically only learned when children are engaged and making eye contact, rather than fiddling with an iPod during a conversation, he said.

FaceTime and Skype are not replacements for actual face time because other studies have found that people tend to multitask while on video calls, Nass said.

Nass is a self-described technologist of 25 years, who has worked as a consultant with many major electronics firms, including Google and Microsoft. He said the findings disturbed him.

A few years ago, Nass worked on a study about how multitasking affects adults. He found that heavy multitaskers experience cognitive issues, such as difficulty focusing and remembering things. They were actually worse at juggling various activities, a skill crucial to many people’s work lives, than those who spent less time multitasking, Nass said.