For mental health week, students discuss Facebook etiquette, privacy


Study finds that the more people stare at Facebook newsfeeds, the more likely they are to be lonely


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2011 College graduate Mike Tzeng presents his findings on Facebook at a Mental Health Week event called “Your Facebook is Showing.”

Photo by Thando Ally


“Mike Thompson and Bethany Mitchell are in a relationship.” Like. “Just got an internship at Goldman-Sachs!” Like.

“Took all my pills be dead soon so bye bye everyone.” Like?

Forty-two-year-old Simone Back posted that status Christmas night in 2010 from her home in Brighton, England.

One of her Facebook “friends,” not taking it seriously, commented, “She ODs all the time and she lies.” Back was pronounced dead the next day.

Last night in Cohen Hall, around 20 students discussed the distinction between an online associate and a real-life friend at “Your Facebook is Showing,” the last event of Penn Mental Wellness Week.

“We wanted to go behind what Facebook use is all about for our students,” said Meeta Kumar, associate director of Penn Counseling and Psychological Services. “It really got to how sometimes being at Penn can be confusing and stressful in terms of finding out where you fit in and who your friends are.”

The event began with a survey of the audience’s attitudes toward common Facebook practices. Using clickers, the group answered a series of questions including, “Do people overshare on Facebook?” One-hundred percent said “Yes.”

Guest speaker and 2011 College graduate Mike Tzeng, who researched Facebook while at Penn, found that the more hours people clock staring at their newsfeed and stalking timelines, the more likely they are to be lonely. “When I went to Penn, I saw a lot of people that wrote messages when they were extremely stressed out … or maybe even depressed. Oftentimes what happens on Facebook is much less subtle,” he said.

Tzeng’s study explores if there are ways to use someone’s Facebook to detect their emotions. “If they’re really sad we might be able to reach out before they do anything rash.”

Many of the students said there is a divide between Facebook and reality.

Although they may be willing to talk openly with someone while hidden behind a username and a laptop screen, speaking with people in person poses a potentially awkward situation.

“You’re able to talk to someone you can’t really see at a random time during the night about pretty intimate things or stuff you wouldn’t talk to them about in person,” said Wellness Week board member and Nursing junior Toni Gatchalian. “But the next day when you actually see them its not the [same environment.]”

College junior Alli Oakes said she prefers her personal matters to be kept offline. In fact, Oakes has a personal set of Facebook rules. “I don’t wish people a happy birthday on Facebook unless I would call them or text them,” she said.

She added, “I don’t make any of my relationships public … If I inevitably am going through a breakup, I don’t need 800 other people to also know that I’m going through a breakup.”

Wharton and College sophomore Saumil Jariwala also has a rule. He doesn’t accept friend requests as he receives them. “I’ll wait till there’s a pre-determined number of friend requests, say 10 to 20 … if you add a little bit of delay, then it prevents that issue later on of having to defriend them.”

Engineering sophomore and Daily Pennsylvanian photographer Trisha Kothari said too much emphasis is placed on adding and friending others. “In our generation, as soon as you get into college you add everyone you know through Facebook … and that’s not healthy because you aren’t starting your interaction at a normal human level,” she said. “It really warps the social interaction.”

Jariwala expressed similar feelings. “You can have people who are making posts 10 to 20 times a day … and that doesn’t mean anything. They could actually be unhappy or they could feel like they’re lacking a meaningful connection with other people,” he said. “That’s the kind of thing you need really, human interaction. Nothing beats that.”

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