A poll of those using the technology found more than half of those surveyed said the sites had changed their behaviour - and half of those said their lives had been altered for the worse.Most commonly, those who suffered a negative impact from social media said their confidence fell after comparing their own achievements to those of friends online. Two-thirds said they found it hard to relax completely or to sleep after spending time on the sites.And one quarter of those polled said they had been left facing difficulties in their relationships or workplace after becoming confrontational online.In total, 298 people were polled by Salford Business School at the University of Salford, for the charity Anxiety UK. Of those, 53 per cent said the launch of social networking sites had changed their behaviour - and of those, 51 per cent said the impact had been negative.
The research also demonstrated the addictive powers of internet, with 55 per cent of people saying they felt "worried or uncomfortable" when they could not access their Facebook or email accounts. More than 60 per cent of people said they felt compelled to turn off electronic gadgets in order to have a break, with one in three of those surveyed saying they switched the devices off several times each day.The findings about behaviour changes after using social networking sites came from smaller in-depth research which was then carried out by Anxiety UK.Nicky Lidbetter, the charity's chief executive said: "If you are predisposed to anxiety it seems that the pressures from technology act as a tipping point, making people feel more insecure and more overwhelmed."She said the charity was surprised by the high proportion of people who found that the only way to ensure a break from the demands of their devices was to switch them off, as they were not capable of simply ignoring their mobile phones, BlackBerry devices and computers.Dr Linda Blair, a clinical psychologist said many people suffered increased anxiety because they failed to take charge of the demands being placed on them. She said: "I think one of the key things is that people have begun to behave as though technology is in control of them, instead of the other way round. We can switch the gadgets off but a lot of us have forgotten how to".Last year, a global study found that turning off mobile phones, avoiding the internet and tuning out of the television and radio can leave people suffering from symptoms similar to those seen in drug addicts trying to go "cold turkey". Scientists asked volunteers from 12 universities around the world to stay away from computers, mobile phones, iPods, television and radio for 24 hours. They found that the participants began to develop symptoms typically seen in smokers attempting to give up. The majority of those who enrolled in the study failed to last the full 24 hours without demanding their gadgets back.