Russell Clayton, now a doctoral student at the University of
Missouri School of Journalism, found that anxiety and alcohol use significantly
predict emotional connectedness to Facebook.
How the study was
Clayton’s master’s thesis, conducted under the supervision
of Randall Osborne, Brian Miller, and Crystal Oberle of Texas State University,
surveyed more than 225 college freshmen students concerning their perceived
levels of loneliness, anxiousness, alcohol use, and marijuana use in the
prediction of emotional connectedness to Facebook and Facebook connections.
They found that students who reported higher levels of
anxiousness and alcohol use appeared to be more emotionally connected with the
social networking site. Clayton and his colleagues also found that students who
reported higher levels of loneliness and anxiousness use Facebook as a platform
to connect with others.
“People who perceive themselves to be anxious are more
likely to want to meet and connect with people online, as opposed to a more
social, public setting,” Clayton said. “Also, when people who are emotionally
connected to Facebook view pictures and statuses of their Facebook friends
using alcohol, they are more motivated to engage in similar online behaviours
in order to fit in socially.”
Clayton says that because alcohol use is generally viewed as
normative, or socially acceptable, among college students, increased alcohol
use may cause an increase in emotional connectedness to Facebook. The
researchers also found that marijuana use predicted the opposite: a lack of emotional
connectedness with Facebook.
“Marijuana use is less normative, meaning fewer people post
on Facebook about using it,” Clayton said. “In turn, people who engage in
marijuana use are less likely to be emotionally attached to Facebook.”
Clayton and his fellow researchers also found that students
who reported high levels of perceived loneliness were not emotionally connected
to Facebook, but use Facebook as a tool to connect with others.
This study was published in the Journal of Computers in Human Behavior.