Posting a status update on Facebook or Twitter may help reduce negative emotions and restore a sense of well-being, a study suggests. The findings suggest that people who feel apprehensive about one-on-one interactions are taking advantage of a new form of communication that may help regulate emotions during the times of need: online social networks. “When people feel badly, they have a need to reach out to others because this can help reduce negative emotions and restore a sense of well-being,” said Eva Buechel, from the University of South Carolina in the US. “But talking to someone face-to-face or on the phone might feel daunting because people may worry that they are bothering them. “Sharing a status update on Facebook or tweet on Twitter allows people to reach out to a large audience in a more undirected manner,” Buechel said.
Writing short messages to an audience on a social network, called microblogging, allows people to reach out without imposing unwanted communication on someone who might feel obligated to respond. Responses on online social networks are more voluntary. To test whether people are more likely to microblog when they feel socially apprehensive, Buechel asked participants in one group to write about a time when they had no one to talk to at a party. While the control group was asked to write about office products. Then she asked the participants who had an online social network account to log in and spend two minutes on their preferred social network.
When the time ended, she asked people if they had microblogged. The results showed that those who had been led to feel socially apprehensive were more likely to microblog. Then she asked the participants who had an online social network account to log in and spend two minutes on their preferred social network. Buechel discovered that people who were higher on the social apprehension scale were more likely to microblog after they had experienced negative emotions. “There is a lot of research showing that sharing online is less ideal than having communication in person, but these social networks could be an important communication channel for certain individuals who would otherwise stay isolated,” she said.