There are lots of opinions out there about whether Facebook is good or bad for things like relationships, grades, and productivity. Since there isn't a ton of good research yet, we don't know all the answers, but the results are mixed. Here's what the studies say so far:
* Facebook usage contributes to jealousy in relationships. When young adults spend more time on Facebook, they tend to get more jealous in their romantic relationships. The more jealous they get, the more time they spend searching for other information about their partner that fuels their jealousy and puts them into a negative cycle.
* Facebook users tend to be more willing to engage in face-to-face interactions and relationships rather than less, which challenges the notion that Facebook and similar online social networking sites cause people to be less social in their real-world interactions.
* There is no strong evidence that Facebook use negatively affects academic achievement in high school and college students. A pilot study had suggested this, but bigger studies have shown no negative impact on grades for the vast majority of students.
* There is evidence that a person's level of narcissism can be predicted by their Facebook profiles. Those who were more narcissistic tend to have more glamourous, self-promoting profile pictures and far more social contacts or "friends" than those who were less narcissistic. There is no evidence that Facebook users as a whole were more narcissistic than average, however.
* Facebook has become part of the "social glue" that helps incoming freshman settle into college and build campus relationships. It may also decrease the likelihood they will drop courses in their first year.
That's what we know--or think we know--about Facebook and similar sites so far. We'll keep you posted as new research emerges.
Sheldon, P. (2008). The relationship between unwillingness-to-communicate and students Facebook use. Journal of Media Psychology: Theories, Methods, and Applications, 20, 67-75.
Mary Ann Liebert, Inc./Genetic Engineering News (2009, August 7). Does Facebook Usage Contribute To Jealousy In Relationships? ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 16, 2009, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090806112558.htm
Ohio State University (2009, April 14). Facebook Use Linked To Lower Grades In College. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 16, 2009, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090413180538.htm
Northwestern University (2009, May 8). Facebook Use Not Found To Correlate Negatively With College Grades, New Study Shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 16, 2009, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090507164403.htm
University of Georgia (2008, September 23). Facebook Profiles Can Be Used To Detect Narcissism. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 16, 2009, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080922135231.htm
University of Leicester (2008, October 14). Facebook Is 'Social Glue' For University Freshmen. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 16, 2009, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081014111056.htm