The simple act of posting a status update on Facebook can make you feel more connected, researchers have found -- even if no one pays attention to your update.
The study, conducted by the Universitat Berlin, focused on the Facebook posts of 100 student volunteers at the University of Arizona over the course of a week.
The students were asked to do two things: fill out forms assessing their mental health throughout the week, and post to Facebook more than they normally would. A control group wrote exactly their regular amount of updates.
Now if you're expecting some sort of cathartic, joyful end to the experiment, you're going to be disappointed. The students posting more Facebook updates were still as cheerful or as depressed at the end of the week as they were at the beginning.
But they did feel less lonely than the control group, experiencing a shift in their sense of connectedness. Whether those posts got any "likes" or comments didn't seem to matter. Simply posting more frequently reduced the students' alienation, regardless of how much real social interaction they'd had during the week.
Seeking to explain this phenomenon, the researchers compared posting quick Facebook updates to quick hits of food. "Similar to a snack temporarily reducing hunger until the next meal, social snacking may help tolerate the lack of 'real' social interaction for a certain amount of time," the Berlin team wrote in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.