Does Daily Stress and Lack of Social Support Lead to Facebook Addiction?

A significant correlation exists between daily stress, lack of social support, and Facebook Addiction Disorder (FAD), according to a study conducted by researchers from the Mental Health Research and Treatment Center at Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB) who published their findings in Psychiatric Research.

In this study, researchers conducted an online survey which queried 309 Facebook users (age range, 18-56, mean age, 23.7, 71.5% women, 49.8% single, 47.9% unmarried with a romantic partner). All survey participants were university students, and the researchers recruited them by displaying invitations at public outlets. In order to achieve eligibility to participate in the study, participants were simply required to have an active Facebook account.

To gauge daily stressful experiences, such as difficulties coping with issues pertaining to family, relationships, health, ect, the researchers used the Brief Daily Stressor Screening (BDSS), which comprised nine items rated on a five-point scale. They measured offline support with a shortened version of the Social Support Questionnaire, which included statements such as “I have friends and family who will always take time and listen carefully if I want to express myself”. These statements were rated from (1=not true, 5=true). Facebook use was assessed by duration of use, and integration of Facebook into daily life. Furthermore, FAD was gauged using a brief version of the Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale (BFAS) and included questions such as “Felt the urge to use Facebook more and more?”) and was rated on a five-point scale of (1= very rarely, 5= very often).

Strong Association Between Stress and FAD

Results of the study indicate a strong correlation between daily stress and FAD, suggesting that increased stress levels are associated with higher tendencies toward Facebook addition. Moreover, Facebook use intensity was notably linked to online social support and level of FAD. The results indicated a prominent link between excessive Facebook use and people who reported a low level of offline support (SE=0.058; 95% CI, .332 to .561) but was weaker when juxtaposed with participants who expressed a medium level of offline support (SE=0.049; 95% CI, .094 to .288). Moreover, Facebook use was found to be significantly lower among participants who conveyed a strong level of offline support (SE=0.058; 95% CI, -0.121 to .108).

“Current results indicate that the channel – offline or online – by which social support is provided might have an impact on the link between daily stress, Facebook use and tendencies towards FAD,” the researchers wrote. “Offline social support, which has been proven to be an important protective factor of mental health, seems to have the potential to buffer the negative impact of daily stress. In contrast, online social support might enhance the development of tendencies towards a psychological dependence on Facebook use. Thus, it does not only matter whether social support is provided, it also matters, through which communication channel the support is provided, i.e., face-to-face or mediated by the online world.”

The researchers concluded by writing that “longitudinal studies are necessary to investigate this hypothetical conclusion and to elucidate whether and how online social support might contribute to the development of tendencies towards FAD.”