A Facebook profile may enhance feelings of self-worth because it offers a place to display the personal traits and relationships the user values most, according to new research at Cornell University.
In fact, after someone gets an ego setback in the real world, he or she may unconsciously gravitate to their online profile to reboot self-esteem, says the report.
The paper explains that people often fulfill their fundamental need to view themselves as valuable and worthy by making themselves aware of what they consider the defining aspects of their sense of self, including values, goals and personal relationships.
“The conventional wisdom is that Facebook use is merely a time sink and leads to an assortment of negative consequences.
“But our research shows that it can be a psychologically meaningful activity that supplies a sense of well-being at a relatively deep level,” said co-author Dr. Jeff Hancock, Cornell professor of communication, and computer and information science.
“The extraordinary amount of time people spend on Facebook may be a reflection of its ability to satisfy ego needs that are fundamental to the human condition.”
The study was co-authored with Catalina Toma, Ph.D., as part of her dissertation. She is now an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
For the study, 88 undergraduates were asked to give a brief speech. As the participants waited for feedback, they were allowed to look at their own Facebook profile or someone else’s.
After a few minutes, each participant was given negative feedback about his or her speech, no matter how well they actually did. They were then asked to rate how accurate they felt the feedback was. Participants who viewed their own profile were less defensive about the negative feedback than those who looked at someone else’s profile.
In another test, students were given either negative or positive feedback about their speech. This time, however, they had the option of browsing their own Facebook profile or other online sites, such as YouTube or news sites.
Students who had received negative feedback were more likely to choose Facebook than those who received positive feedback, the research found.
The study suggests that Facebook profiles could be used strategically in applied self-affirmation interventions, said Hancock.
Also, the experience of engaging with one’s profile-based self may give emotional benefits to millions of social network users, he said, by restoring deep-seated notions of themselves as a good person loved by a network of friends and family.
“Perhaps online daters who are anxious about being single or recently divorced may find comfort in the process of composing or reviewing their online profiles, as it allows them to reflect on their core values and identity,” Hancock said.
“Students who are feeling stressed about upcoming exams might similarly find solace in their social networking site profiles.”
“As a widely available, everyday source of self-affirmation, Facebook appears to be a useful instrument in people’s efforts to preserve self-worth and self-integrity,” said Hancock.
Source: Cornell University