Carried out by researchers at Edge Hill University, the new study looked at 200 male and female WhatsApp users with an average age of 24, and asked them to complete an online questionnaire measuring their WhatsApp use, reasons for using the app, online bonding, quality of relationships, and group identity.
The findings, published in the International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction, showed that on average, participants reported using WhatsApp for around 55 minutes each day, with participants reporting that they largely use it because of its popularity and group chat function.
The researchers also found that the number of minutes per day spent using WhatsApp was positively related to quality of relationships, and that the more time people spent on WhatsApp each day, the less lonely they felt and the higher their self-esteem as a result of online bonding with friends and family.
"There's lots of debate about whether spending time on social media is bad for our well-being but we've found it might not be as bad as we think," said co-author Dr Linda Kaye. "The more time people spent on WhatsApp, the more this related to them feeling close to their friends and family and they perceived these relationships to be good quality."
"As well as this, the more closely bonded these friendships were and the more people felt affiliated with their WhatsApp groups, the more this was related positively to their self-esteem and social competence."
"Group affiliation also meant that WhatsApp users were less lonely. It seems that using WhatsApp to connect with our close friends is favourable for aspects of our well-being."
Dr Kaye added, "This research contributes to the ongoing debates in this area and provides specific evidence of the role of social factors, along with social support motivations for using communication technology."
"It gives rise to the notion that social technology such as WhatsApp may stimulate existing relationships and opportunities for communication, thereby enhancing aspects of the users' positive well-being." – AFP Relaxnews
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