How social media users create and monitor their online personas reveals their feelings of self-esteem and self-determination, according to a new study.
“The types of actions users take and the kinds of information they are adding to their Facebook walls and profiles are a reflection of their identities,” said S. Shyam Sundar, Ph.D., co-director of the Media Effects Research Laboratory at Penn State University.
“You are your Facebook, basically and, despite all its socialness, Facebook is a deeply personal medium.”
People with lower self-esteem tend to be more concerned with what others post about them on Facebook, while users with higher self-esteem spend more effort on adding information to their personal profiles, Sundar reported at INTERACT 2013 in Cape Town, South Africa.
While all spend time crafting their online personas on Facebook, people choose different paths, depending on their self-esteem, according to the researcher.
For example, individuals with higher self-esteem have a greater sense of agency and spend more time adding information about their family, education and work experience to their profiles.
Users who have lower self-esteem continuously monitor their wall and delete unwanted posts from other users, the researcher noted.
For their study, the researchers studied how 225 students from a South Korean university filled in their Facebook profiles and how the students edited material that friends linked to or posted on their walls.
Participants answered a series of questions about whether they added information to 33 categories of personal data, including details about their family, work and relationships. The participants also reported on how frequently they updated and changed information on their walls.
To measure self-esteem and self-monitoring, the researchers asked the participants to answer questions, including ones on self-worth and how they choose to present themselves in public.
The findings may lead to alternative ways to make money for online social networks, said Sundar, who worked with Jiaqi Nie, a graduate student in interaction science at Sungkyunkwan University in South Korea.
“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 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, said Sundar. For example, social media and app developers may be able to attract paying customers with more customizable walls and profile pages.
The researchers suggest that future studies may investigate how users of different psychological backgrounds take part in other social networking behaviors, such as how often they update photos and how they set privacy settings.
Source: Penn State