Does Facebook Have an Effect on Self-Esteem?

This study was aimed at explaining the psychological impact of social networking websites such as Facebook. The objective of the study was to check whether Facebook activity upgraded or downgraded a person’s self-esteem. It was expected that social websites would not contribute positively to improving self-esteem. However, this study revealed that more activity on Facebook helped promote self-respect and also to sustain healthy relationships. This is probably attributed to the consequences of self-presentation through media that is accessible to a large audience.

Today, social networking is an integral part of daily life across the world. It is significant to understand the impact of this mode of communication on an individual’s personality, behavior and even performance. The current study analyzed whether activity on networking websites like Facebook positively or negatively affected a person’s self-esteem. The study was based on two popular psychological models—the Objective Self-Awareness and the Hyperpersonal Models. The assumptions considered in this study assessed both the lowering and enhancing of self-esteem as a result of social networking. Additionally, the study also looked into whether viewing or making alterations to one’s own profile on Facebook would play a role in increasing self-esteem.

* The study consolidated results of a survey handed out to 63 participants.
* The participants were divided into three groups of 21 people each. Each group was subjected to the following conditions while answering a questionnaire — one group was exposed to their own Facebook profile for three minutes, the second while facing a mirror, and the third just sitting in the same room with the computer switched off and no mirror.
* The participants were asked to note down their ratings of self-esteem and self-presentation and the data was statistically analyzed across the three conditions.

Results/Key findings
* The hypothesis that Facebook negatively impacted self-perception as against another self-awareness stimulus like the mirror did not gather sufficient evidence.
* The alternate hypothesis yielded significant results during the study. It was noted that viewing Facebook while completing the questionnaire had a positive effect, and indeed enhances self-esteem much more than viewing themselves in a mirror.
* The role selective presentation played on self-respect was validated from the reported lower self-respect in individuals who left their profiles alone, and from the reported enhanced self-respect in individuals who made changes to their profiles.

Next steps/Shortcomings
The present study was limited as it did not account for the number of Facebook friends a single profile had and the long-term effects of Facebook activity. The participants in the mirror and control groups did not have a time gap as in the Facebook group. This could be addressed by assigning them a filler task. Future research is warranted on other social websites and the possible activation of the “ideal self” against the “real self” through self-presentation in networking sites.

The current study challenges previous findings that have suggested a negative impact of social media on the personality. This study establishes that social networking interfaces like Facebook provide a new perspective of the “self,” making scientists reconsider existing theories in the understanding of psychology. It gives individuals the opportunity to choose what they want to project about themselves. Viewing one’s own profile as others would see it, and also the number of friends on Facebook, helps with self-analysis. This leads to altering self-information to modulate others’ impressions. A balance between the actual self and the ideal self is pivotal in understanding how all these factors act on self-esteem. Ultimately, all the above interplay triggers the social process and interactions.

For More Information:
Mirror, Mirror on my Facebook Wall: Effects of Exposure to Facebook on Self-Esteem
Publication Journal: Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 2011
By Amy L. Gonzales; Jeffrey T. Hancock, PhD; Cornell University, Ithaca, New York

*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.