Is my profile picture the fairest of them all? As a phenomena Facebook is still fairly new and its impact sociologically and psychologically remains to be completely understood. However, a new study has shone a little bit of light into this still cloudy area, claiming that looking at your Facebook profile page boosts your self-esteem.
The study was carried out by Amy Gonzales and Jeffrey Hancock of Cornell University. Previous research indicated internet use promotes depression, loneliness and to decreased social skills. However, the effect of Facebook exposure on general self-esteem had not been explored.
The participants were told that the study was designed to examine “people’s attitudes about themselves after exploring different Internet sites” and were separated into three groups. An online group, an offline group and an offline control group.
The online control group were asked to go onto their Facebook page and were given no instruction on whether or not they were allowed to change their page. After three minutes the researchers returned with a questionnaire. In the offline group a mirror was placed infront of the computer screen to act as an offline “self awareness stimulator” and were told they could not move it, due to it being “part of another experiment”. After three minutes they were given a questionnaire. The offline control group were placed in the same cubicle without the mirror and without the screen turned on.
Self-esteem was measure using the Rosenburg Self-Esteem scale and used to test several hypotheses. The hypotheses were as follows:
- Exposure to one’s Facebook site will have a more negative effect on self-esteem than traditional objective self-awareness stimuli
- Exposure to one’s Facebook site will have a more positive effect on self-esteem than a control condition or a traditional self-awareness stimuli
- Participants who exclusively examine only their own profile will report higher self-esteem than participants who view other profiles in addition to their own profiles
- Participants who make changes to their profile during the experiment will have higher self-esteem than participants who do not
Contrast analyses were undertaken that showed that there was a significant link between the Facebook views and an increase in self-esteem. When looking at the effect of individuals changing their Facebook pages the researchers declared that “participants who changed their profile during the study reported higher self-esteem than those who did not change their profile”.
But what does this tell us, about us? The results follow the Walther’s Hyperpersonal model, suggesting that the process of selective self-presentation of ourselves on Facebook influences our impressions of ourselves, in this instance boosting self-esteem. In contrast to this when presented with a non-edited view (i.e. mirror) self-esteem is decreased.
There are limitations in this study that need to be taken into account. The study did not normalise for the number and quality of friendships on Facebook. This is a factor that obviously could play a role in how someone interacts with the site.
So, next time I am on Facebook when I probably should be working I will tell myself, don’t worry, it’s good for me…and will avoid looking in the mirror!
Gonzales AL, & Hancock JT (2011). Mirror, Mirror on my Facebook Wall: Effects of Exposure to Facebook on Self-Esteem. Cyberpsychology, behavior and social networking, 14 (1-2), 79-83 PMID: 21329447