Teenagers may be fleeing Facebook, but the social network remains popular with college students — or at least with some of the most freaked-out among them. Undergrads who are anxious or drink a lot have a stronger emotional connection to the site than their calmer, less-drunk peers, according to a new study.
Researcher Russell Clayton and his coauthors surveyed 229 undergraduates on how “emotionally connected” they were to Facebook, asking how much they agreed with statements like “Facebook is part of my everyday activity” and “I would be sorry if Facebook shut down.” They also measured how anxious the students were, and asked them about their alcohol and marijuana use.
They found that both anxiety and alcohol use were associated with greater connection to Facebook. Anxious people may be too stressed out for face-to-face interaction and use Facebook as a substitute, they speculate. And students who use Facebook a lot may see pictures of their friends drinking and partying, causing them to drink more. Or students who drink a lot may become more attached to Facebook than their sober peers, because they need a place to post drunk pictures of themselves.
Marijuana use was actually associated with less connection to Facebook, possibly because it’s riskier to post photos of. The authors note that their undergraduate subjects lived in dorms and “likely had to sneak about to partake of marijuana and thus may be away from their computer or Facebook.”
So even if Facebook’s losing ground among teens, it still has America’s many drunk, unhappy young adults to rely on.