Researchers believe they have unraveled the Holy Grail for why social network sites are so popular. The findings help to explain why one particular site has become a world-wide sensation with a targeted subset of its 845 million users and an estimated net worth of between $75 and $100 billion dollars.
The key to popularity of social networking sites (SNSs) revolves around how the experience makes us feel. Investigators discovered social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace evoke a positive experience on individuals when the users access and use the sites.
While experts have known that the use of SNSs can have both a positive and negative effect on an individual, the popularity of SNSs suggests a strong positive experience is the norm.
In the current study investigators looked at body physiological responses when an individual was exposed to a 3 minute episode of (a) a slide show of natural panoramas (relaxation condition), (b) the subject’s personal Facebook account, and (c) a Stroop and mathematical task (stress condition).
Investigators monitored skin conduction velocity, pulse, respiration rate and pupil dilation using an electroencephalogram and electromyography. The procedure was performed on 30 healthy subjects.
Researchers wanted to learn how the SNSs experience influence body responses associated with stress, relaxation and the “affective experience.”
Statistical analysis of the psychophysiological data and pupil dilation indicates that the Facebook experience was significantly different from stress and relaxation on many linear and spectral indices of somatic activity.
Investigators believe the biological signals revealed that Facebook use can evoke a psychophysiological state characterized by high positive valence and high arousal (Core Flow State).
This means that use of Facebook may help individuals improve their mood.
The study is found in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking.