A big longstanding problem for psychologists is that they haven’t really ever been able to observe their clients in “the wild,” as it were. They can’t see how they interact with other people as it happens; they can’t see what filters, if any, they deploy; they can’t observe patterns in social behavior over time. Except, haha, when our crazy spills over onto Facebook, according to a new study.
The study actually doesn’t seem all that complex:
To conduct the study, Martin’s team asked participants to print their Facebook activity and correlated aspects of that activity with the degree to which those individuals exhibited schizotypy, a range of symptoms including social withdrawal to odd beliefs. Some study participants showed signs of the schizotypy condition known as social anhedonia, or the inability to experience pleasure from usually enjoyable activities, such as communicating and interacting with others. In the study, people with social anhedonia tended to have fewer friends on Facebook, communicated with friends less frequently and shared fewer photos.
Also, there’s this gem in the press release:
Other study participants concealed significant portions of their Facebook profile before presenting them to researchers… Hiding Facebook activity also was considered a sign of higher levels of paranoia.
… Yeah. Yeah, we think that’s a reasonable conclusion.
The best part is that one of the screening factors was “odd beliefs,” so basically your “friend,” by which we mean “ex-boyfriend of a college friend you haven’t seen in years,” the guy posting about how that gear found in coal in Russia means aliens totally exist? He may be a little nuts!
It may seem like common sense, but scientists do need to test these things. So soon, therapists will ask to look at your Facebook. We just recommend asking them not to take too many screenshots. And maybe explain that you’re job hunting right now, so you are self-editing just a bit.