Much has been written about the positive and negative impacts of social media, with particular reference to Facebook, which now has over 1 billion users. Research on the negative aspects of frequent Facebook use has focused on the possible relationships with negative psychological states and behavior such as anxiety, low self-esteem and narcissim.
For my previous articles in PT on the topic of Facebook’s psychological impact go here and here.
How social media users create and monitor their online personas may hint at their feelings of self-esteem and self-determination, according to an international team of researchers.
"The types of actions users take and the kinds of information they are adding to their Facebook walls and profiles are a refection of their identities," said one of the researchers S. Shyam Sundar, Distinguished Professor of Communications and co-director of the Media Effects Research Laboratory at Penn State.
Sundar contends that people with lower self-esteem are more concerned with what other people post about them on Facebook. In contrast, users with higher self-esteem spnd more effort adding personal information about their family, education and their work. Low self–esteem users continuously monitor their Facebook wall and delete unwanted posts from other users.
"The more you get connected to Facebook, the stronger you feel that the items you post - the pictures, for example - are part of your identity and the more likely you are going to view these as your virtual possessions," said Sundar.
Because both groups of high self-esteem and low self-esteem Facebook users see the social network as an extension of their self-identity, they may be willing to pay for features on social networks, said Sundar. For example, social media and social media app developers may be able to attract paying customers with more customizable walls and profile pages.
Sundar’s research is consistent with previous research studies.
A study conducted by The University of Gothenburg in Sweden surveyed 335 men and 676 women (average age 32) to help determine the link between self-esteem and Facebook usage. A significant negative relationship between the two was uncovered (as Facebook interaction increased, self-esteem decreased), though the main difference was between genders. Women who used Facebook were apt to feel less happy and content with their lives.
One previous study from the University of Georgia finds that social networks play on our self-esteem and to some extent on more narcissistic tendencies. “Despite the name ‘social networks,’ much user activity on networking sites is self-focused,” said Brittany Gentile, a UGA doctoral candidate who looked at the effects of social networks on self-esteem and narcissism. The study, published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, suggests that most people who log on to Facebook every day may be boosting their self-esteem in the process.
In theory, the social networking website Facebook could be great for people with low self-esteem. Sharing is important for improving friendships. But in practice, people with low self-esteem seem to behave counterproductively, bombarding their friends with negative tidbits about their lives and making themselves less likeable, according to a study published in Psychological Science.
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