Facebook Negatives for Teens: But Virtual Empathy a Positive

Facebook, the phenomenally successful social networking site, is now part of many people’s everyday lives but as well as the many positives about social networking, Facebook has sometimes received some criticism in studies. A new study, which we are going to look at today shows negatives for teens using Facebook but also shows a real positive, that of virtual empathy.

We have looked at some of the darker sides of social networking before and back in March for example we highlighted a stufy about ‘Facebook Depression’ among teens, although Facebook was quick to point out that the claims from this study were unsubstantiated. In May we then reported on further news about the negative effects on children and teens using social networking sites. The latest study comes from a professor of psychology at California State University, Dr. Larry Rosen, and seems to show further concerns about the use of Facebook.

The study was brought to our attention by Erica Swallow over on Mashable and it seems that various psychological disorders have been noted in teens using Facebook too much. Although many of us find it a boon in keeping in touch with friends and family and even feeling part of a community, the latest research shows that the impact of social media on human interaction can be damaging. Rosen studied the impact of Facebook by looking at surveys completed by 1000 adolescents and his own observations of 300 teens studying and presented his findings, “Poke Me: How Social Networks Can Both Help and Harm Our Kids” at the Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association.

Among the negative conclusions were that teens overusing Facebook regularly were more likely to become narcissistic, use antisocial behavior, and suffer mania and aggression. In teens that use technology excessively every day, including Facebook and video gaming, it was noted that there was more school absence and also that those teens were more likely to suffer from stomach problems, sleep disorders and anxiety. In those students who checked Facebook at least once in a 15-minute study period, lower grades were evident and the teens that had Facebook open more in those study periods also had lower reading retention rates.

One of the real positives that was brought to light by the findings though, was virtual empathy. Whereas previously most of us have thought of empathy as being an emotion felt when in the presence of others physically, with the use of kind words and hugs for example, Rosen’s findings were that many teens have developed virtual empathy through the use of social networking sites such as Facebook. This virtual empathy can be shown to connections on Facebook and felt by those on the receiving end in much the same way as a more physical empathy and could make teens more empathetic in the ‘real world’ too.

It’s certainly food for thought and although there are drawbacks for some to using social networking, many more find it useful and get something good out of it. We’d be interested to hear your thoughts about this. Are you the parent of a teen who regularly uses social networking and have noticed your child’s behavior worsen? Maybe you’re a teen who sees nothing but good in Facebook and enjoys the ‘community’ feel of it? Let us know with your comments.

  • http://www.socialmarketingdynamics.com/ Sydney @ Social Dynamics

    I agree on the points that is is quite detrimental to one’s health, as to the emotional advantages, I really think it depends on the person. There are some people who grow antagonistic with use, but some get their sensitivity amplified, because these are who they are before they started and what they are exposed to in their environments.

  • http://www.socialmarketingdynamics.com/ Sydney @ Social Dynamics

    I agree on the points that is is quite detrimental to one’s health, as to the emotional advantages, I really think it depends on the person. There are some people who grow antagonistic with use, but some get their sensitivity amplified, because these are who they are before they started and what they are exposed to in their environments.