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A former Texas State graduate student recently published in an academic journal about the role of social media in the lives of college students with high levels of anxiety and loneliness.

Russell Clayton’s article in Journal of Computers in Human Behavior is based on his masters degree research at Texas State, and that research is based on surveys of more than 225 Texas State students. Clayton, now a doctoral student at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, graduated from Texas State in 2010 with a B.S. in psychology and earned his M.A. in health psychology in 2012. Clayton’s master thesis was conducted under the supervision of Randall Osborne, Brian Miller and Crystal Oberle of Texas State.

Clayton surveyed Texas State freshmen concerning their perceived levels of loneliness, anxiousness, alcohol use and marijuana use in the prediction of emotional connectedness to Facebook. He found that students who reported higher levels of anxiousness and alcohol use appeared to be more emotionally connected with the social networking site. Clayton and his colleagues also found that students who reported higher levels of loneliness and anxiousness use Facebook as a platform to connect with others.

“During my first semester of graduate school I approached Dr. Osborne with my thesis hypotheses, and without hesitation he agreed to serve as my thesis chair,” Clayton said.

The Texas State undergraduate students were living in University dormitories in October of 2011. Clayton successfully defended his thesis in April of 2012.

It was during the defense that Osborne, Miller and Oberle suggested that he submit his thesis to an academic journal for potential publication. Clayton was later admitted into the University of Missouri School of Journalism doctoral program to conduct research in the Psychological Research on Information and Media Effects (PRIME) Lab. His study was published in the Journal of Computers in Human Behavior.

“I think it is wonderful that Russell and his study are getting national attention,” Osborne said. “To me, it helps to illuminate that fact that Facebook and other social networking sites provide a conduit for the socially anxious or shy or awkward person to socially connect, but that such a connection is not the equivalent of a face-to-face interaction. Although it may, temporarily, alleviate the social anxiety and loneliness, it does not teach people skills to approach face-to-face situations with any less anxiety. It can become a substitute for such interactions and, in the long run, that might not be so healthy.”

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