Facebook and other social network sites can cause users to lose
control and may lead to violence, obesity and debt.
Browsing for just five minutes on social networks can boost user’s
self-belief so much that they become more impulsive.
Effects can include an increase in binge-eating, loss of concentration
and lack of application, a study showed.
Researchers are also concerned that the loss of control prompted by
using Facebook could lead to social problems such as aggression and
‘Given that self-control is important for maintaining social order and
personal well-being, this subtle effect could have widespread impact,’
the study from the US warned.
‘This is particularly true for adolescents and young adults who are
the heaviest users of social networks and have grown up using social
networks as a normal part of their daily lives.’
Dr Andrew Stephen, of the University of Pittsburgh, and Dr Keith
Wilcox of Columbia University in New York, carried out the study with
more than 1,000 Facebook users and said it was the first time it has
been demonstrated that facebook and other social networking sites lead
to loss of control. They urged policy-makers to investigate social
network use to better understand how people behave after using
Facebook and other sites.
‘We have demonstrated that using today’s most popular social network,
Facebook, may have a detrimental effect on people’s self-control,’
said Dr Stephen.
The researchers found that the key to behavioral changes after using
social networking sites is the way they boost a user’s feeling of
For people who send and receive posts from a number of friends with
whom they have ‘strong ties’ even using a site for a short period of
time was observed to increase self-esteem. This is thought to happen
because the social conventions that prevent boasting in face to face
meetings are weakened when posting online, the researchers argued.
Users are also likely to focus on presenting positive images of
themselves which are reinforced by supportive responses. Having had
their self-esteem boosted, the study showed, the self-control of users
was weakened and resulted in different types of behaviour.
Volunteers taking part in one test were instructed to either spend a
few minutes browsing social network sites or to
Participants were then asked to choose between a healthy snack or a
chocolate chip cookie and it was found that those using social network
sites were more likely to opt for the unhealthy option. ‘Social
network use enhanced self-esteem, making them more likely to make an
unhealthy food choice compared to those who did not browse Facebook,’
the academics reported in a paper – Are Close Friends the Enemy?
Online Social Networks, Self-Esteem, and Self-Control – published
online in the Journal of Consumer Research.
A similar test in which volunteers were asked to solve anagrams after
going online showed that the Facebook users were more likely to lose
concentration and give up on the puzzles.
Researchers also asked volunteers a series of questions to establish
their Body Mass Index (BMI), how many credit cards they had and what
their levels of debt were. ‘The results suggest that greater social
network use is associated with a higher body-mass index, increased
binge eating, a lower credit score, and higher levels of credit-card
debt for individuals with strong ties to their social network,’ the
‘This research advances our knowledge of social networks by
demonstrating that social networks can have significant effects on
consumer judgment and decision-making, even in tasks that are
unrelated to social network use or more general social behavior.’
They added: ‘Our research demonstrates that social network use may
also have a detrimental effect on well-being by leading certain people
to exhibit lower self-control.
‘It would be worthwhile for researchers and policy makers to further
explore social network use in order to better understand which
consumers may be particularly vulnerable to suffering negative
psychological or social consequences.’
-Facebook has more than a billion users worldwide.
-More than 166 million people use Facebook in the US, more than any
-The UK is the sixth largest user with more than 32 million users
people logged in.
-In the UK it is most popular among 25 to 34-year-olds.
-Users spend more than 700 billion minutes per month on Facebook.
-Mark Zuckerberg, the founder, is worth £5.8 billion) $9.4bn.