Facebook is one of the world’s largest networking sites. Studies have used self-reporting methods to show how social networking exposes the human need to connect with others.
A new study from the Benedictine University in Mesa, AZ and Providence College in Rhodes Island were set to explore the effect of Facebook exposure on the physiological arousal level of participants who then encountered the stimulus person in a face-to-face situation. They found that exposure to an individual on Facebook before a face-to-face encounter led to increased arousal, especially for those who are high in social anxiety.
Published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, the research team evaluated the social anxiety levels of 26 female participants aged 18-20 years, using the Interaction Anxiousness Scale (IAS).
Each participant was told to memorize the face of a colleague to prepare for a facial recognition test. After, an electrode was placed on the ring and index finger of the left hand as a skin response test. One of the four conditions was presented to the participants:
- The participants studied the stimulus person's face on a Facebook profile page.
- The participants studied the same person's face while she was in the same room.
- The participants were first exposed to the Facebook photos, followed by a live exposure to the stimulus person.
- The participants first saw the stimulus person live and then scrolling through her Facebook pictures.
The researchers found that when a participant was first exposed to a fellow student on Facebook, then meeting them in person increased psychological arousal for subjects who had high levels of social anxiety.
“Whether it is a priming effect or an unwelcome stimulus change, the implication for socially anxious Facebook users is the same: initial Facebook exposure may not serve a protective function during a subsequent live exposure, but may lead to an increase in negative arousal,” the researchers added.
One limitation the researchers added was that their study was able to generalize real world situations. Also, this study only assessed participant encounters with the same sex.