College students who posted more status updates on the social networking site than they normally did felt less lonely over the course of a week, even if no one "Liked" or commented on their posts, researchers found.
"We got the idea to conduct this study during a coffee-break sharing random stories about what friends had posted on Facebook," psychology researcher Fenne Deters, of the Universitat Berlin, told LiveScience.
"Wondering why posting status updates is so popular, we thought that it would be thrilling to study this new form of communication empirically," Deters said.
Deters and her colleague recruited about 100 undergraduates (all Facebook users) at the University of Arizona.
All participants filled out initial surveys to measure their levels of loneliness, happiness and depression, and they gave the researchers access to their Facebook profiles by friending a dummy user created for the experiment.The students were sent an analysis of their average weekly status updates (online wall-memos) and some of the participants were then told to post more statuses than usual over the next seven days.
During that week, all completed a short online questionnaire at the end of each day about their mood and level of social connection.
Compared with the group of students who didn't adjust their social media habits, those who went on a status-writing blitz felt less lonely over the week, the team found.
"Their happiness and depression levels went unchanged, suggesting that the effect is specific to experienced loneliness," the researchers wrote.
A drop in loneliness was linked to an increase in feeling more socially connected, which the researchers believe is the cause behind the positive effects of status updating.
Interestingly, the team found that loneliness levels did not depend on whether the students' status updates garnered any comments or "Likes" from Facebook friends.
One might assume that a lack of response could be considered a form of rejection, but the act of writing a status update itself might help people feel more connected, the researchers said.
When crafting a clever status, Facebook users have a target audience in mind. Simply thinking about their friends (or at least their Facebook friends) can have a "social snacking" effect.
The study was published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.