It seems everyday in the news we are hearing another story about Facebook, Myspace or other social networking sites. We have heard the horror stories of bullying, suicide and isolation that have occurred on these sites. While we have all learned about the damaging effects of these sites, we have heard very little about the possible benefits of Facebook and other social networking communities.
We are living in a day and age where modern technology dictates how we interact socially. Whether we like it or not social networking sites are the way of the future and they are here to stay. Coming from a mental health perspective, it is important to look at this issue from many different points of view in order to gain a better understanding of how this may effect society as a whole. We have heard many negatives about such sites, but is it possible that Facebook or other networking sites can have a positive impact on mental health?
The answer is, quite possibly, yes. A recent study suggests that social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace and others can play a constructive role by helping grieving individuals adjust to bereavement. The study was comprised of 106 college students that had lost a loved one and had access to a memorial page on a social networking site. They were all given the Hogan Grief Reaction Checklist. Results indicated that participants thought their online activities were helpful and recognized many positive effects to expressing their grief on social networking sites (Graves, 2010).
Another area where Facebook might be mentally healthful is adjustability for college students. Going off to college can be quite an change for students and recent research indicates that social networking sites can contribute to a sense of belonging. It was shown that a sense of belonging positively correlated with the number of friends and time spent on social networking sites (Walz, 2009).
It may be a psychological reality in the near future to receive “Cybertherapy” via Facebook. Cybertherapy is an interesting approach that uses Facebook and other social networking sites to provide psychiatric care online. Proponents of cybertherapy claim that it may elevate client distress and create an easiness between patient and Doctor (Graffeo, 2009).
Since the beginning of the Facebook trend there has been very little research done into the mental effects of social networking sites. No matter how you feel about social networking, it is evident that there is not enough research to be certain whether it is damaging or not. Social networking research is a small but growing field of study that will eventually lead to a better understanding of the phenomenon and the mental health implications.
Graffeo, I., & La Barbera, D. (2009). Cybertherapy meets Facebook, Blogger, and Second Life: An Italian experience. Annual Review of CyberTherapy and Telemedicine, 7108-112. Retrieved from PsycINFO database.
Graves, K. (2010). Social networking sites and grief: An exploratory investigation of potential benefits. Dissertation Abstracts International, 70, Retrieved from PsycINFO database.
Walz, L. (2009). The relationship between college students’ use of social networking sites and their sense of belonging. Dissertation Abstracts International, 70, Retrieved from PsycINFO database.