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Facebook might not benefit those with low self-esteem

Heather Rudow January 31, 2012

(Photo:Wikimedia Commons)

Despite the fact that some studies are reporting that blogging could be a useful tool for teens to overcome feelings of anxiety and low self-esteem and to help them better connect with friends, new research indicates that for people with low self-esteem, spending time on Facebook can actually be counterproductive in helping them feel better.

“We had this idea that Facebook could be a really fantastic place for people to strengthen their relationships,” said co-author Amanda Forest.

In one study, the researchers asked students for their feelings about Facebook and found that participants who had low self-esteem “were more likely to think that Facebook provided an opportunity to connect with other people and to perceive it as a safe place that reduces the risk of awkward social situations.”

However, in another study, the researchers looked into what students actually wrote on Facebook, which revealed something else:

“They asked the students for their last 10 status updates, sentences like, ‘[Name] is lucky to have such terrific friends and is looking forward to a great day tomorrow!’ and ‘[Name] is upset b/c her phone got stolen :@.’ These are visible to their Facebook friends, the people in their network. Each set of status updates was rated for how positive or negative it was. For each set of statements, a coder — an undergraduate Facebook user — rated how much they liked the person who wrote them. People with low self-esteem were more negative than people with high self-esteem — and the coders liked them less. The coders were strangers, but that’s realistic, Forest said.”

The researchers also found that when people with low self-esteem post positive Facebook updates, they get more responses from their Facebook friends than when they post more negative ones. The opposite is the case for people with high self-esteem who post negative updates, however; possibly because negative updates are so infrequent.

“If you’re talking to somebody in person and you say something, you might get some indication that they don’t like it, that they’re sick of hearing your negativity,” Forest said. “On Facebook, you don’t see most of the reactions.”

Source: Association for Psychological Science

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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