Facebook makes us feel good about ourselves: study

June 26, 2012

People love social networks. That's the obvious conclusion from Facebook's 900 million active users and its current standing as one of the most visited sites on the web, second only to Google. New research from the University of Georgia finds what people may really "like" about social networking are themselves.

"Despite the name 'social networks,' much user activity on networking sites is self-focused," said Brittany Gentile, a UGA who looked at the effects of social networks on self-esteem and .

According to the research, published online this month by the journal Computers in Human Behavior, the 526 million people who log on to every day may be boosting their self-esteem in the process.

Gentile, along with UGA Keith Campbell and San Diego State University professor Jean Twenge, asked college students to either edit their page on MySpace or Facebook or to use . Those who edited their MySpace page later scored higher on a measure of narcissism, while those who spent time on their Facebook page scored higher on self-esteem.

"Editing yourself and constructing yourself on these social networking sites, even for a short period of time, seems to have an effect on how you see yourself," said Campbell, who heads the department of psychology in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and co-authored the book "The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement." "They are feeling better about themselves in both cases. But in one they are tapping into narcissism and in the other into self-esteem."

MySpace reported 25 million users as of June 2012. MySpace users participated in the experiment in 2008, when the site had 115 million active users. Facebook users participated in 2011. On both MySpace and Facebook, students scoring higher in narcissism reported having more friends on the site.

A total of 151 students, ages 18-22, completed the Narcissistic Personality Inventory as a part of the study.

"The NPI measures trait narcissism, which is a stable personality trait," Gentile said. "But spending 15 minutes editing a MySpace page and writing about its meaning was enough to alter self-reports of this trait, suggesting that social networking sites may be a significant influence on the development of personality and identity."

The differences in site format may be one reason why MySpace led to higher narcissism whereas Facebook merely produced higher self-esteem.

"The two sites operate differently," Gentile said. "On MySpace you don't really interact with other people. The pages resemble personal webpages, and a lot of people have become famous on MySpace, whereas Facebook has a standard profile and a company message that sharing will improve the world."

Several previous studies found increases over the generations in both self-esteem and narcissism. These new experiments suggest the increasing popularity of social may play a role in those trends.

" are a product and a cause of a society that is self-absorbed," Campbell said. "Narcissism and self-esteem began to rise in the 1980s. Because Facebook came on the scene only seven years ago, it wasn't the original cause of the increases. It may be just another enforcer."

Social networking should not be seen as an answer to building self-esteem, he said, but the fact that people may get a jolt when logging on doesn't mean they should stop either.

"Ideally, you get self-esteem from having strong relationships and achieving goals that are reasonable and age-appropriate," Campbell said. "Ideally, self-esteem is not something you should take a short cut to find. It is a consequence of a good life, not something you chase."

More information: For the full research article, see www.sciencedirect.com/science/ … ii/S0747563212001409

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Babies can learn that hard work pays off

September 21, 2017
If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. A new study from MIT reveals that babies as young as 15 months can learn to follow this advice. The researchers found that babies who watched an adult struggle at two different ...

Study links brain inflammation to suicidal thinking in depression

September 21, 2017
Patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) have increased brain levels of a marker of microglial activation, a sign of inflammation, according to a new study in Biological Psychiatry by researchers at the University of ...

Oxytocin turns up the volume of your social environment

September 20, 2017
Before you shop for the "cuddle" hormone oxytocin to relieve stress and enhance your social life, read this: a new study from the University of California, Davis, suggests that sometimes, blocking the action of oxytocin in ...

Researchers develop new tool to assess individual's level of wisdom

September 20, 2017
Researchers at University of San Diego School of Medicine have developed a new tool called the San Diego Wisdom Scale (SD-WISE) to assess an individual's level of wisdom, based upon a conceptualization of wisdom as a trait ...

Alcohol use affects levels of cholesterol regulator through epigenetics

September 20, 2017
In an analysis of the epigenomes of people and mice, researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine and the National Institutes of Health report that drinking alcohol may induce changes to a cholesterol-regulating gene.

Self-control may not diminish throughout the day

September 20, 2017
After a long day of work and carefully watching what you eat, you might expect your self-control to slip a little by kicking back and cracking open a bag of potato chips.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.