Self-Esteem Impacts Facebook Use

Summary
The study examines how particular personality traits like narcissism (self-importance) and self-esteem are manifested on Facebook.com, a popular social networking website. Analyses of self-reports collected from 100 Facebook users at York University in Canada, revealed that individuals with higher narcissistic traits and lower self-esteem were engaged in greater online activity with self-promotional content. Gender differences were found to influence the type of self-promotional features displayed on Facebook profiles. The results provide a valuable insight into understanding how certain personality traits are constructed in a virtual environment, and may have important implications in marketing and advertising strategies in online communities.

Introduction
In recent years, interactive Internet sites known as Web 2.0 applications have paved the way for users with even minimal knowledge of the Internet to share personal information with a vast audience and thus offer a gateway for the creation of an online virtual identity.  Facebook, a popular social networking website, is extensively used, especially by the student community, to communicate and share personal information, videos and photos online.  In spite of the success and staggering increase in the use of such social networking sites, research focusing on online self-presentation is relatively scarce, with most studies having focused on anonymous online settings like chat rooms or bulletin boards.  The main aim of the present study was to “address this dearth of research by examining the relationship between offline personality and online self-presentation.”

Methodology

  • One hundred Facebook users, male and female in equal numbers, aged 18 to 25 years, were randomly recruited in this study.
  • All participants were asked to complete a four-part questionnaire, and five features of their Facebook pages were coded on the basis of self-promoting, following their consent for the same.  Participants’ identification was kept confidential.
  • The author of this study, a 22-year old female undergraduate student of York University, rated the Facebook pages of the participants.
  • Scientific methods were used to assess narcissistic personality traits and measure self-esteem in participants.

Key Findings

  • Results revealed that individuals higher in narcissism and lower in self-esteem checked their Facebook pages more often, spent more time per session, and displayed more self-promotional content on their Facebook pages.
  • Gender differences were found to influence self-promotional content on Facebook.
  • Males exhibited more self-promotional information in the ‘About Me’ section and the ‘Notes’ section, attempting to focus on intelligence and wit
  • Females displayed more self-promotional information in the ‘Main Photo,’ highlighting physical appearances.

Shortcomings/Next steps
The study may suffer from a subjectivity bias which could have been avoided by using a “larger sample that is more diverse in age and selected from across a variety of settings.” More objective methods of measuring self-promotion can also help reduce the bias. Future studies could focus on the “social consequences of friend-networking sites.”

Conclusion
The present study, which examines the effects of various personality traits in online self-promotional content, is a valuable addition to the existing research on self-presentation.  The results indicate that individuals with low self-esteem and higher narcissistic personality traits are more likely to be engaged in online activity and self-promotional content.  Men and women were found to have different types of self-promotional features, emphasizing different areas of their perceived superiority displayed on social networking sites. The study highlights how personality traits like self-importance and self-esteem are “constructed in a virtual environment,” which may have significant implications on online promotion and marketing approaches in the future.

For More Information:

Self-Presentation 2.0: Narcissism and Self-Esteem on Facebook
Publication Journal: Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, August 2010
By Soraya Mehdizadeh; York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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

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