Facebook’s success: It’s about making people feel better

Among the fascinating outgrowths of the Facebook phenomenon are the psychological studies on what Facebook tells us about human behavior. One new study, published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, suggests that people experience an uptick in mood when they are on social networking sites.

In the study, researchers exposed 30 healthy people to a slide show, the person’s own Facebook account or a mathematical test. During each three-minute exposure, the participants underwent tests to measure several physiological processes, such as brain-wave activity, blood flow, pulse, respiration and pupil dilation, and other tests that indicated changes in mood and stress.

Not surprisingly, the three minutes spent on Facebook was more rewarding than the relaxing slide show or the stressful math test. However, being on Facebook also triggered a response that indicated a positive mood shift.

The effect of Facebook points to what the authors refer to as the “broaden and build” theory of positive emotions. This theory suggests that positive emotions lead to creativity and social bonds that in turn build personal resources. These resources can be drawn on later for coping and survival.

Facebook’s “activities lead to a positive emotional experience that people appreciate and seek again,” the authors said.


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