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German Study Suggests Shy People Have More Online Friends

Researchers have found a correlation between a person's "emotional sensitivity" to social situations and the number of friends they socialize with in online spaces.
This article is over 9 years old and may contain outdated information

A recent study from researchers at the University of Münster finds there is a positive relationship between a person’s social shyness and the number of friends they have from online gaming.

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The study focused on “emotional sensitivity” – an outward, measurable display of social shyness.

[Emotional sensitivity involves] the ability to interpret the non-verbal and emotional cues of others, such the vocal tone of someone who might sound angry, anxious or happy, [as well as] nonverbal gestures that could indicate another’s interest or disinterest in the person or the conservation.

An unusually high emotional sensititivity, researchers argued, could inhibit a person’s normal, healthy social interactions due to self-conscious behavior or over-reading of social cues.

Researchers interviewed 396 German participants via phone and asked various questions about their social and personal lives. They then measured how long on average respondents played online video games per day, as well as the number of friends they played online games with (separated into friends met online but never offline, friends met both on- and offline, and friends met offline and then interacted with through online video games).

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They found that people who demonstrated a higher level of emotional sensitivity were more likely to have higher numbers of friends from all three categories.

…the results indicate that emotionally sensitive players are using online gaming spaces differently from their less emotionally sensitive counterparts and reporting tangible differences in their in-game friendship networks.

Some explanations for the positive relationship included the fact that online gaming allows for “visual anonymity” in most settings, as well as “asynchronous interactions” (i.e. gamers have time to think about their responses), and conversations focused on in-game topics.

The study could not establish a correlation based on respondents’ online gaming participation, only between shyness and number of online friends. Its chief researchers also noted the small sample size and geographic limitation meant that further studies were necessary to eliminate any unexamined variables.

For anecdotal proof of the power online games can have on friendships, love and life fulfillment, take a look at GameSkinny’s current #10yearsofwow contest.


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Michael Falero
GameSkinny Senior Intern. Writer, Gamer, British TV nerd. Looking out for that big blue box.