How Facebook helps new students to adapt to university life

Receiving frequent messages on Facebook could help students who are about to begin university in the next few weeks and feeling in need of support. During the first term at university, Facebook users who receive more messages and comments from fellow users feel less stressed, and have greater self-esteem and feelings of well-being, than those receiving fewer messages and comments.

These are the preliminary findings of research conducted by Dr Chris Stiff, a Lecturer from Keele University, which he presented his to the British Psychological Society Social Psychology Section's annual conference in Cambridge last week.

To ascertain the relationships between Facebook use and psychological outcomes, 141 students beginning university for the first time completed questionnaires relating to the extent of their Facebook use and measures of their self-esteem, well-being and stress levels.

Although not associated with number of Facebook friends, less stress and more positive self-esteem and well-being were associated with receiving more communication on Facebook during the first term at university.

In a second cohort of 169 students, completing the same measures in the second half of their first year at university, the amount of Facebook use was unrelated to these psychological outcomes. Having more Facebook friends at this stage, however, was associated with higher self-esteem and well-being.

Dr Stiff said: “Facebook is not just a tool for superficial social networking; it is also a highly effective conduit for social support during students' first few dizzying months at university".