Lonely people are more likely to disclose sensitive personal information on Facebook than those who feel connected according to new Charles Sturt University (CSU) research.
Associate Professor Yeslam Al-Saggaf, from CSU's School of Computing and Mathematics, and Director of the Quantitative Consulting Unit in the CSU Research Office Ms Sharon Nielsen wanted to find out if there was a relationship between loneliness and self disclosure on social networking sites.
They studied data collected from more than 600 female Facebook users whose profiles were publicly available online, and Professor Al-Saggaf believes the findings are equally applicable to male users.
"We collected information from 308 users who indicated they were feeling 'lonely' and 308 users who said they felt 'connected' to other people on their profile status," said Professor Al-Saggaf. 'For example, one female said ''Such a boring evening. . .I'm so 'lonely'. . . :-('."
The researchers examined the amount of information that both groups revealed and found that the 'lonely' users disclosed more personal and relationship information publicly than the 'connected' users.
"More than 79 per cent of the 'lonely' users disclosed personal information, such as their favourite books and movies, compared with less than 65 per cent of the 'connected' group," Professor Al-Saggaf said.
"Nearly 98 per cent of the 'lonely' users shared relationship status publicly.
"It makes sense that the people who felt lonely would disclose this type of information, since they want to make it easier for others to initiate contact with them, which may help them overcome their feelings of loneliness."
On the other hand, more people who felt 'connected' shared their views on politics and religion than people who felt 'lonely'.
Professor Al-Saggaf said that significantly more users from the 'lonely' group shared address information than those who felt 'connected'.
"Revealing this information publicly on social networking sites is a concern," he said. "Coupled with other information, such as Relationship Status and Favourite Movies, which 'lonely' people also tended to disclose, the potential for harm from stalking and harassment, for example, is real and possibly serious."
The research, Self-disclosure on Facebook among female users and its relationship to feelings of loneliness will be published in the July issue of the journal of Computers in Human Behaviour.