Yesterday, I had a red letter day for a number of reasons. At one point, I found myself practically bouncing up and down in my office chair with glee, trying to think of the best way to broadcast my A-plus fantastic mood to the rest of the world via Facebook. Why would anyone care that I had a chocolate cupcake kind of day? I don't know. But after agonizing over how to communicate all of this, I finally gave up and decided to keep my good fortune to myself.
I was suffering, apparently, from Facebook-related anxiety. An article in the Telegraph (via Hairpin) describes a study from Edinburgh Napier University on how the social network impacts our mental health. Not surprisingly, the survey participants most active on Facebook exhibited the most stress related to constantly updating, interacting with friends, responding to friend requests and even taking time off from the site.
Study author Cathy Charles explained that "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."
Other internet psychologists warn that the results should be taken with a grain of salt since the survey participants skewed females and also only consisted of college students who might use Facebook differently than the general population.
At the same time, this study also reminded me of recent findings from Stanford University that reading all of those happy go lucky status updates could make us feel worse about ourselves. Women -- who are more active on Facebook than men -- appear more prone to this effect as well. But just like those researchers said to not swallow the Edinburgh results hook, line and stinker, it's important to keep the same air of caution while scrolling through friends' status updates. And whenever you feel that "neurotic limbo" taking over like I was yesterday, just log out, step away and get busy yourself with something you can post about later.