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Oct 15, 2014 06:56 AM EDT

Lonely People More Likely to Use Facebook, Study

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Lonely people are more likely to use Facebook, according to a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The researchers said that feeling of loneliness in fact attracts users to Facebook and not the other way around.

"Compared to non-lonely people, lonely people spend more time on Facebook. Lonely individuals who are shy or have low social support may turn to Facebook to compensate for their lack of social skills and/or social networks in face-to-face settings," states the study.

Facebook has over one billion users and has become the focal point of people's everyday life and social interactions. People use the popular online social media site to share personal information, meet people and develop friendships. The use of Facebook accounts for 62 percent of users' time online in the United States.

Whether the impact of easy communication and interaction by Facebook is helping or harming human interactions is a debatable topic. Of late, research projects have focused on whether Facebook use is psychologically beneficial or detrimental.

For the study, the researchers meta-analysed all the published data on the issue. "Some researchers found a 'positive' relationship between Facebook use and loneliness and some people found the opposite," Hayeon Song, an assistant professor of communication, said in a press release.

The researchers found that as feelings of loneliness increases, the time spent on Facebook increases. The finding suggests that Facebook does not help reducing loneliness even if we feel more connected while using it. Song said that non-lonely people also do use Facebook, but they maintain rich personal communications and relationships.

"To the question of whether or not the Internet increases psychological dysfunction such as loneliness, the Internet paradox study suggested that Internet use has detrimental effects. Our study supports this in that Internet use is associated with loneliness. However, we found the previously suggested causal direction to be erroneous: lonely people spend more time on the Internet rather than Internet use making people lonely," Song said.

The researchers said that Facebook allows users who feel alone and socially isolated to experience benefits of social interaction. At the same time, it can make them more isolated as increased online contacts may replace real-life communication.

"Facebook is so widespread, and it's evolving. For some people, it is almost like an addiction because they become so deeply involved. That's why it's important to understand the causes and the long-term consequences of using social media," Song said.

The finding is published in Computers in Human Behavior.

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