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May 13, 2014 05:34 AM EDT

Few ‘Likes’ on Facebook Affect User’s Feeling of Social Belonging, Study

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Facebook, with an average of 1.11 billion users per month, has brought the world closer. Communicating and sharing of pictures, videos, etc.  with family and friends across the globe is rapid and instant.

A new study conducted by the University of Queensland has, however, found that few 'likes' on Facebook affect a user's self-esteem and can lead to increased feelings of loneliness.

Dr Stephanie Tobin from University of Queensland's School of Psychology said that users experience a sense of belonging when they are active on social media websites. But, the same feeling gets threatened when they stop participating in activities on those sites or when their statuses or pictures do not generate enough responses from others.

For the study, the researchers conducted two experiments on 'lurking' or passive Facebook participation and on ostracism.

In the first experiment, researchers asked half of the frequent Facebook users to post updates, while the other half, dubbed 'lurkers', were told to just view their friend's status updates.

In the second experiment, participants were asked to post and comment on other's status updates on Facebook by using accounts set up by researchers. Half of the accounts were modulated in such a way that they received no feedback at all. At the end of the experiment, half the participants received the feedback while the other half didn't and were eventually banished.

At the end of both the experiments, the researchers found that both 'lurkers' and 'ostracised participants' from each study experienced low level of personal well-being and social belonging. They felt less significant as individuals. Ostracised users were also associated with low level of self-esteem and control.

The researchers concluded that active participation on Facebook leads to a sense of belonging among users.

"The studies allowed us to examine how the sense of belonging depends on how much people are sharing on Facebook, the experiences they are having on the site and whether they are being ignored or validated by others," said Tobin. "The results clearly identified that active participation is necessary to decrease feelings of social rejection."

The new research was published in the journal Social Influence this month.

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