Facebook absence is suspicious says research

Some employers and psychologists say staying away from social networking sites such as Facebook is suspicious and that there is even good reason to suspect that abstainers could be potential mass murderers.

Aug 16, 2012
By Paul Jacques

Some employers and psychologists say staying away from social networking sites such as Facebook is suspicious and that there is even good reason to suspect that abstainers could be potential mass murderers.

The German magazine Der Taggspiegel points out that both accused Aurora theatre gunman James Holmes and the Norwegian massacre shooter Anders Behring Breivik share an absence from Facebook.

There are more than 955 million Facebook users and the social media site has become such a pervasive force in modern society that for today’s young generation, having Facebook is considered ‘normal’, while opting out is considered ‘abnormal’.

Der Taggspiegel says the common concern among bosses is that a lack of Facebook could mean the applicant’s account could be so full of offensive material that it had to be deleted.

Psychologist Christopher Moeller told the magazine that Facebook activity can be seen as a reflection of a healthy social life.

“The internet has become a natural part of life,” he said. “It’s possible that you get feelings of positive feedback through online friends.”

In excess, Mr Moeller says, Facebook interactions can reinforce feelings of social anxiety experienced offline.

•Research presented at the American Psychological Association’s Annual Convention found that cyberbullying – which takes place online or via a mobile phone – isn’t growing as rapidly as once thought.

“Claims by the media and researchers that cyberbullying has increased dramatically and is now the big school bullying problem are largely exaggerated,” said psychologist Dan Olweus of the University of Bergen, Norway.

“There is very little scientific support to show that cyberbullying has increased over the past five to six years and this form of bullying is actually a less frequent phenomenon.”

He added: “These results suggest that the new electronic media have actually created few ‘new’ victims and bullies.”

However, he noted that cyberbullying is still a critical issue that can cause depression, poor self-esteem and suicidal thoughts.

“It is therefore important also to take cyberbullying seriously, both in research and prevention,” said Mr Olweus.

The research is the result of years of large-scale, international studies on the topic, including one involving around 450,000 US students in grades three to 12. About 18 per cent of those students said they had been verbally bullied and five per cent had been cyber-bullied.

Similar findings have surfaced in other studies, including one conducted in Norway that followed 9,000 students through grades four to ten in 41 schools from 2006 to 2010. About 11 per cent said they had been bullied in person while four per cent were victims of cyberbullying.

According to the research, between 80 and 90 per cent of cyber-bullied students were also subject to verbal bullying.

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