“I’m about to bake cookies for my boyfriend!” “I have 2 job interviews this week!” “I just had the most romantic night ever!”
Do any of these sentiments sound familiar to you? It’s not a foreign concept that Facebook status updates may be geared toward all the positive occurrences in one’s life. It’s also likely that when some scroll through their news feeds, they’re comparing these successes to their own lives.
Facebook use has become an integral part of our daily routines, regardless of whether we’re aware of its impact.
According to Digital Buzz’s Facebook statistics for 2011, there are 500 million active users, used by approximately 1 in every 13 people on Earth. Over 250 million users log in every day and 48 percent of users are in the 18- to 34-year-old demographic.
Therefore, it’s not too surprising that studies have been conducted to determine the relationship between Facebook usage and its impact on our happiness, well-being and self-esteem.
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 of the theories behind the discontentment could be the finding that women tended to write more about their thoughts and feeling, while men spent more time provoking others,” stated the study.
The mere state of comparison could play a key role with Facebook’s impact on self-esteem as well. “It seems like everyone on my friends list has really good news at every time of the day,” Steven, a recent college graduate who studied psychology, said. “One would think that if you’re surrounded by all of this positive, virtual energy that you in turn would feel happy-go-lucky.
However, it seems inevitable that you will find yourself comparing your life to the seemingly perfect ones illustrated on the wonderful world of Facebook. Personally, I think social networking sites, although convenient for communication and keeping in touch with people, will probably do more harm for a person’s self-esteem than good. I think this is most true for the people who frequently log on and less for those who seldom go on just to browse.”
On the other hand, the Cornell Daily Sun published a piece, “Study Shows Facebook Ups Self-Esteem.” A study conducted by Amy Gonzales, Ph.D and Prof. Jeffrey Hancock found a positive relationship between Facebook use and self-esteem for college students. “When we’re online, we can selectively self-present,” Hancock said. “We can take more time and sound more witty.”
A 2009 study published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking looked at 63 Cornell students who were divided into three groups in a social media lab. One group sat at computers that depicted their Facebook profiles, another group sat at computers that were turned off, and the last group sat at turned-off computers with mirrors propped up next to them. Students with the computers logged onto Facebook were allowed to spend three minutes exploring and editing their profiles.
After three minutes, all participants were given a questionnaire that measured self-esteem using the Rosenberg Self-Esteem scale. When researchers compared the group with a mirror and no Faceboook access to the group with no Facebook access or a mirror, no elevation in self-esteem was reported.
However, a drastic rise in self-esteem was found in the group that spent time on Facebook; those who also edited their profiles had the highest self-esteem in the entire study.
According to Gonzales, the study was originally produced to analyze two opposing theories of communication. The objective self-awareness theory conveys that when an individual focuses attention on him- or herself, his or her self-esteem may be negatively affected. This focus makes the individual recall and concentrate on all his or her faults. The hyperpersonal model theory suggests that when people focus on themselves, they view themselves in a positive light.
This Facebook study supports the hyperpersonal theory. “There are not a lot of theories that have been tested within the computer-mediated communications field compared to other communication subfields, so this was exciting from a theoretical perspective,” Gonzales said.
Regardless of whether we realize it, Facebook use does influence our psychological well-being. Maybe now that we’re aware of its hold, we can become more conscious in how we let it shape our view of ourselves.
Denti, L., Nilsson, I., Barbopoulos, I., Holmberg, L., Thulin, M., Wendeblad, M., … Davidsson, E. Sweden’s Largest Facebook Study: A Survey of 1,000 Swedish Facebook Users. Gothenburg Research Institute, April 2, 2012.
Gonzales, A., & Hancock, J. (2011). Mirror, Mirror on my Facebook Wall: Effects of Exposure to Facebook on Self-Esteem. Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, 14, No. 1-2. DOI: 10.1089/cyber.2009.0411