SEATTLE (CBS SEATTLE) — Adding more friends to your Facebook account can also add to your level of stress.

According to a recent study from University of Edinburgh Business School, increasing your friend count on the social networking site can also increase levels of stress, especially if your additional acquaintances originate from different social groups.

Much of the anxiety is compounded when users present their lives in ways that various groups of friends may find enjoyable, while others may be offended. For example, 55 percent of parents follow their children on Facebook. Likewise, more than half of employers claim not to have hired someone based on their Facebook page.

Researchers found that on average people are Facebook friends with seven different social circles. The most common group was friends known offline (97 per cent added them as friends online), followed by extended family (81 per cent), siblings (80 per cent), friends of friends (69 per cent), and colleagues (65 per cent).

But those same people reported they only check the profiles of three of those social circles.

Researchers polled over 300 people who were recruited via Facebook for the report. Of this sample size, 84 percent were “in full-time education,” at the average age of 21. Participants answered questions about different spheres of friends they have acquired, picking between 17 labels such as “family,” “friends I met online,” and “employers.” They were then asked which of those groups causes them the most stress.

“[G]iven that social networks are primarily arenas for self-presentation, they are inextricably linked with the possibility for social anxiety,” reads the study, sent to the Huffington Post through email.

The report also discovered that more people are Facebook friends with their former partners than with their current relationship partner. Only 56 per cent of users were friends with their boyfriend, girlfriend or spouse online, compared with 64 per cent of exes.

Privacy is also an issue, with only one-third of respondents utilizing the privacy setting on their Facebook profile, which can be used to control the information seen by different types of friends.

Ben Marder, author of the report and early career fellow in marketing at the Business School, said: “Facebook used to be like a great party for all your friends where you can dance, drink and flirt. But now with your Mum, Dad and boss there the party becomes an anxious event full of potential social landmines.”


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