Removing tags or deleting posts off a social networking site may actually hurt friendships, a recent study reports.
Researchers at University of Arizona found that some students reported feeling hurt or confused by such events, or tried to justify it on their own, said Robert Tokunaga, who conducted the study and is now an assistant professor of communicology at the University of Hawai’i, Manoa.
The research appeared in July in the journal “Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking.” It looks at online experiences from 197 students at the University of Arizona, where Tokunaga is a Ph.D. candidate in communication.
In another study that will be published soon, Tokunaga said he found the main reasons for negative feelings are that people have low self-esteem, or believe that they have been humiliated in a significant public forum. It becomes a problem when that humiliation interferes with a person’s work or studies.
But people with high self-esteem usually aren’t bothered by the negative events his study identified, Tokunaga said.
When a friend doesn’t respond to a Facebook post, third-year physiological science student Emily Kim said she assumes it’s not important to the other person, or they’re too busy.
“I just brush it off,” Kim said. “I don’t use Facebook for serious relationship-building.”
Meanwhile, a participant in Tokunaga’s study expressed a negative reaction to being ignored.
“I felt anxious and began to regret (requesting) them in fear or embarrassment of rejection,” said one 21-year-old woman in the July study, discussing her experience of an ignored friend request. “I think the reason for the wait was because that person was busy and didn’t have time to log on to their account.”
Ultimately, using social media can be both a positive and a negative experience, said Dr. Raphael Rose, an associate research psychologist and assistant clinical professor in the Department of Psychology and Anxiety Disorders Research Center at UCLA.
Everyone has degrees of social anxiety and people with higher levels worry about embarrassing themselves in front of others, whether online or in person, Rose said.
“The good part of social networking is that people (with social anxiety) can come into contactÂ ““ electronic contact ““ with more people than they normally would, which may open them up to more social experiences,” Rose said. “It can be a more comfortable way of communication because it’s not face to face.”