Facebook Benefits

Facebook Benefits
Facebook users spend an average of more than 15 hours a month on the social networking site. While there are plenty who caution against such intensive use — and there are a number of studies detailing the harm Facebook could potentially cause — there also are lots of reports extolling the site's virtues.

As the social media giant prepares for its upcoming initial public offering, here are seven ways Facebook just might be good for you.

Improves your heart rate

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Spending time on Facebook can help people relax, slow down their heart rate and decrease stress levels, according to researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Milan.

In a study published earlier this year, researchers studied 30 students and found that a natural high was sparked when they were on the social media network that led to the relaxed heart rates and lower levels of stress and tension.

In the study, the students were monitored in three situations: looking at panoramic landscapes, performing complicated mathematical equations and using Facebook. While the first situation was the most relaxing to students and the math problems were the most stressful, the time on Facebook uncovered high levels of attractiveness and arousal.

The findings support the researchers' hypothesis that Facebook's success, as well as that of other social media networks, correlates to the specific positive mental and physical state users experience.

Could help you land a job

With a number of businesses already using Facebook research to rule out potential employees during key hiring situations, studies show they may soon be using it to determine who the best candidates are.

A study by researchers at Northern Illinois University revealed that impressions from time spent perusing a candidate's Facebook page was a stronger predictor of their likelihood to excel in a job than the personality and IQ surveys many companies require potential employees to complete.

Lead researcher Don Kluemper said the study consisted of asking "raters" to evaluate job candidates based on both Facebook pages and personality tests.

"Our raters could look at the tone of a subject’s wall post, note the number of friends they have, peruse their photos to see how social they were and assess their tastes in books and music," Kluemper told NIU Today in February. "We were able to conclude that after a five-minute perusal of a Facebook page, raters were able to answer questions regarding the subject about as reliably as would be expected of a significant other or close friend."

When the researchers asked the candidates' current employers to evaluate them six months later, they found the initial Facebook evaluations were a more accurate predictor of success than other tools like personality and IQ tests.

Boosts self-esteem

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Spending time on the social networking giant also makes people feel good about themselves, according to research.

A study conducted by researchers at Cornell University was the first to show a psychological benefit to using Facebook, revealing that people get a self-esteem boost just by looking at their Facebook wall.

Researcher Jeffrey Hancock said the results are most likely the effect of Facebook users being able to put their best image forward by choosing what they reveal about themselves. In addition, the positive feedback friends and family bring to a Facebook wall also contributes to the self-esteem boost.

"Unlike a mirror, which reminds us of who we really are and may have a negative effect on self-esteem if that image does not match with our ideal, Facebook can show a positive version of ourselves," Hancock told the Cornell Chronicle. "We're not saying that it's a deceptive version of self, but it's a positive one."

Hancock said the study was one of the first to show a psychological benefit to using Facebook.

Raises stock prices

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Facebook isn't just good for your physical and mental health. It also can be good for your investments.

A study last year by Pace University researchers found that the more popular a company was on Facebook, the better its stock price seemed to be.

"The study suggests a relationship between the popularity or greater numbers of people thinking and posting comments or sharing experiences about brands and the economic performance of the brand," said Pace University researcher Arthur O'Connor. "If everyone is thinking about and talking about your brand, that may mean something in terms of your stock price or corporate performance."

O'Connor said the results create the potential for new applications of social media popularity metrics as economic indicators.

Increases productivity

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While many may argue that social media networks only distract employees, research shows the opposite may be true.

Research from Keas.com found that a 10-minute Facebook break makes employees happier, healthier and more productive.

The study examined workers in three groups: one that was allowed no breaks, one that was allowed to do anything but use the Internet and one that was allowed 10 minutes to use the Internet and Facebook. The Facebook group was found to be 16 percent more productive than the group that was not allowed to use the Internet and nearly 40 percent more productive than the group that was allowed no breaks.

"Short and unobtrusive breaks, such as a quick surf on the Internet, enables the mind to rest itself, leading to a higher net total concentration for a day's work, and as a result, increased productivity," said Brent Coker of the department of management and marketing at the University of Melbourne in Australia.

Helps you get a degree

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Facebook may help students get the college degree they've been seeking.

Conducted by researchers at Abilene Christian University, a study found that students who were active on Facebook were less likely to drop out of school than those who don't use the social network.

The research examined nearly 400 first- and second-year college students. Most of the students that returned for their second year were significantly more active on Facebook than the ones who did not.

The study also revealed that students who are active Facebook users show more enthusiasm for their college environment.

Improves your love life

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Facebook is also in the business of matchmaking.

Research shows that nearly 60 percent of singles will friend someone new on Facebook after meeting them in person. If they like what they see, 25 percent are likely to contact their new love interest via Facebook.

Once the courting is over, nearly 40 percent of those social networking adults will update their relationship status on Facebook, with just 24 percent telling their friends first.

Facebook use between couples will continue through the dating process, the research shows. Throughout the day, 79 percent of couples said they send partners Facebook messages or chat on the social network. In addition, more than 60 percent would post romantic messages on their significant other’s Facebook wall.

When the relationship ends, more than half of those surveyed immediately update their status to single, which automatically sends out a notification to their friend list to start the dating cycle over again.

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance business and technology writer who has worked in public relations and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter. You can reach him at chadgbrooks@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @cbrooks76.

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