According to Deters & Mehl (2013), Facebook has 800 million active users of whom more than 50% visit the site every day. In other words, Facebook has become a big part of many people’s lives, and people increasingly use Facebook to communicate with family and friends.
The fact that people use the internet to such a degree is one of the public’s concerns, and indeed, some studies have claimed that internet use has negative interpersonal and psychological effects.
This is probably because some people believed that computer-mediated communication undermines face-to-face communication, which is considered to be more natural as well as beneficial to our social well-being.
In contrast, other studies have identified beneficial effects of internet use on social capital, social support, well-being and loneliness. This is probably due to the fact that online social networking can help maintain existing friendships, especially when face-to-face communication is impossible because of physical distance.
These contradicting findings may be the result of inconsistent, correlational study designs, and internet use has often been defined very broadly.
Therefore, Deters & Mehl (2013) conducted a new experimental study to meet this criticism. The authors wanted to find out how posting Facebook status updates influences feelings of loneliness.
In short, the study shows that posting Facebook status updates decreases loneliness by fostering a sense of connectedness:
“The content of status updates posted during the study is consistent with the idea that posting status updates helps maintain connectedness by sharing daily experiences and by letting friends take part in one’s life.”
The study also shows that the effects of posting status updates is not dependent of social feedback (i.e., comments and likes), meaning that uni-directional communication can foster a sense of connectedness.
Facebook users may assume that their status updates sooner or later reach their friends, even if there is no feedback:
“Facebook users have a target audience – their online social network – in mind when composing status updates. It is through this symbolic process of thinking of a target audience that status updating can have a significant ‘‘social snacking’’ component.”
The positive effects of posting status updates, however, might be a short-term coping mechanism that only results in a temporary satisfaction of relatedness. Consequently, it may not satisfy the more fundamental need for relatedness.