In a recent study of 70 undergraduate students at Assumption College in Massachusetts, researcher Maria Kalpidou found that the number of Facebook friends you have can predict social adjustment to college. Freshmen with 200 or more friends scored with lower levels of self-esteem and personal and academic adjustment than freshmen with less than 200 friends. That’s right — the more “friends” you have on Facebook, the less likely you are to have, well, actual friends.
These effects wore off over time, however, as upper-class students surveyed with 200 or more friends showed higher levels of social adjustment and enthusiasm for their school (“school spirit”). Kalpidou suggested this may be due to upper-class students using Facebook more effectively as a way to enhance their social life, rather than a means to an end.
Such results should be not surprising. Freshmen often arrive on campus feeling disconnected from others, especially if this is the first time away from home for an extended period of time and living with strangers. And while traditionally it’s been relatively easy to make friends with other freshmen, Facebook has made it all too easy to make “virtual” acquaintances instead of actual, face-to-face friendships. Why deal with the social anxiety of talking to people in real life when you can “talk” with them on Facebook instead?