Are Your Facebook Friends Stressing You Out? (Yes.)

Your (Facebook) friends may be stressing you out. And the more you have, the more stressed you may be.

Per a new report from the University of Edinburgh Business School, the more friends you have on Facebook — or, perhaps more accurately, the more “friends” you have on Facebook — the more stressed you’re likely to be about actually having them. The finding, which is similar to one determined last year, is nice as a headline: It’s both unexpected (friends! stressing you out! ha!) and ironic (the currency of the social web, taking value rather than adding it!). What’s interesting, though, is the why of the matter: the idea that, the report theorizes, the wider your Facebook network, the more likely it is that something you say or do on the site will end up offending one of that network’s members. The stress comes from a kind of preemptive, pervasive sense of propriety. Unsurprisingly, per the study’s survey of more than 300 Facebook users, “adding employers or parents resulted in the greatest increase in anxiety.”

Yep. And that’s largely because, as Facebook approaches ubiquity, it’s changing in its scope and its permissions. “Facebook used to be like a great party for all your friends where you can dance, drink and flirt,” said Ben Marder, an early career fellow at Edinburgh and the author of the report. “But now with your Mum, Dad and boss there the party becomes an anxious event full of potential social landmines.”

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