Facebook 'friends' making you crazy? You're not alone

A recent study finds users are more anxious about offending, now that Mom, Dad and the boss are watching.

By Jason Notte Nov 29, 2012 11:31AM

Image: Woman with computer (Jose Luis Pelaez/Getty Images/Getty Images)If you've always suspected it, science just confirmed it: All those Facebook (FB) friends are working your last nerve.

A study by the University of Edinburgh Business School in Scotland just backed up what most of the Facebook-using world has been learning since the site stopped restricting membership to college students and opened its profile pages to everybody: The more Facebook friends you have, the more stressed you may be.

Facebook hasn't been a good place to speak off the cuff or post potentially embarrassing photos for a while now, but it's even more fraught with peril now that the grownups are all over it and their delicate sensibilities are more easily offended by the things you post.

"Facebook used to be like a great party for all your friends where you can dance, drink and flirt. But now with your Mum, Dad and boss there, the party becomes an anxious event full of potential social landmines," said Ben Marder, a marketing fellow at the University of Edinburgh who wrote the report.

It is absolutely no fun on Facebook these days. Forbes is telling potential employers to scour your profile before hiring you. Handing over your Facebook password is reportedly a mandatory part of the interview process at some companies. While your personal conduct on Facebook has always been up for grabs, the contents of your site can generate enough of a furor that the online masses can force an employer to fire you even if they're initially supportive of your online speech.

Even when employers don't pry into your publicly posted "private" life, Facebook's a tough place to be. True privacy is at a premium. Information that was once confined to the Facebook ecosystem is now out there for the world to see. Your relentlessly upbeat friends who post photos of dinners that look like Bon Appetit covers, present parenting as one fun-filled smartphone photo session and document their lives as one big string of achievements and whirlwind vacations are making you miserable. The whole thing's even making life itself seem less fair.

Now Mom's critiquing how much you drink on the weekends, Dad wishes you'd stop swearing and riding your bike in traffic and your racist uncle is making both your Facebook feed and the holiday table extremely uncomfortable places to be during an election year. That may be just about the best summary of Facebook in 2012: a never-ending Thanksgiving vacation. You can't escape the relatives and their stories, you keep trying to duck work before someone suggests you come in on Friday and, all the while, somebody in the background keeps trying to sell you something.

Does that mean people are cutting back on friends or Facebook time? Not at all. Vain Americans are far too concerned with keeping up appearances to trim their friend count. An entire generation finds Facebook harder to turn down than sex.

Social networking is turning Facebook into a cluster of harried house guests as chaste as shimmery teen vampires. Facebook users would do something about it, but those idiosyncrasies are among the few things they can complain about on Facebook without getting in trouble for it.


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Nov 29, 2012 12:21PM
I absolutely refuse to have a Facebook page. I could care less what everyone else is doing at any given moment throughout the day...and I'm pretty sure they feel the same way about me :) ...and if my girlfriend continues to post every flipping little tidbit about our relationship on her 'page', she's going to be an ex-girlfriend real quick like. Are you reading this, honey?
Nov 29, 2012 12:08PM
Reason number 9,056,789 why I don't, and never will, have a Facebook page.  Look at the smile on my face for not dealing with the mudane, cruel family, idiotic friends, and invasion of privacy.  
Nov 29, 2012 12:51PM
I just use Facebook as a voyeur for the most part.

It's good for seeing your old friends and their kids grow up.

Nov 29, 2012 12:29PM
"Your relentlessly upbeat friends who posted photos of their dinners look like Bon Appetit covers"

"Facebook users would do something about it, but among the few things they can complain about on Facebook without getting in trouble for it."

Doesn't anybody proofread these articles before they're posted?
Nov 29, 2012 2:49PM

Ditched Facebook over a year ago Suckerburg can get rich off of all the idiots misery he wants.  My family put the dys in dysfunctional anyway, why the hell would I want to share in their miserable lives?  My nephew's divorce lawyer told him Facebook was his #1 client provider.


The straw that broke the camels back for me  was when my oldest daughter "unfriended me" because I called her out about some really questionable photos she posted of her college life.  I spent  a pile of money on her college education and she wants to blow away any potential of getting a good job by posting drunk idiot "me"and friend photos.


I am fully aware of what college students do.  I just do not think they are fully aware that everyone is truly watching.  We did not have Facebook and I would not have been stupid enough to post pictures of my finest redneck moments for the whole world to see, those photos are private and still provide a few laughs today.


My friends who work in HR check all their potential job prospects on Facebook, Twitter, and NCIC.  They tell me they really narrow the applicant pool fast after those searches.  Good luck posting your stupid me pictures in the bathroom mirror at Dennys and telling everyone in the world what appetizer you had at the bar last night.  Who really gives a shiz?

Nov 29, 2012 12:35PM
No self respecting adult would join something meant for Jr. High kids.
Nov 29, 2012 2:37PM
It really sucks to get the latest news and pix of your grandchildrens' latest milestones from FB before your children tell you personally.  Social order in the new millenium:  FB friends = family?  Sad , sick world we live in!!
Nov 29, 2012 12:38PM
Oh, yes.  All of us Vain Americans are to blame for everything.  ****.
Nov 29, 2012 5:11PM
I tried face book but it was a pain in the butt.  I had people that I had never heard of trying to sign up as friends.
Nov 30, 2012 5:44PM
I have a facebook page and I think everyone is being a tad dramatic.  You can adjust your privacy settings and make it much harder for employers and strangers to see what is on your page. Also, if you have an obnoxious relative/friend/acquaintance you can easily hide their posts so that you don't see them in your news feed.  I think it is great that I can stay in touch with my family  that is in another country and stay in touch with old friends who are several states away.  I still actually see people close to me face to face and have conversations over the phone but I love seeing updates. 
Dec 23, 2012 3:16PM
Not only our senatorzz & congrease-people, want the right to invasion of yur life, but FBK too.
Nov 30, 2012 12:42PM
"...and your racist uncle is making both your Facebook feed and the holiday table extremely uncomfortable places to be during an election year." 

Really?  Good grief, MSN.
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