Need a pick-me-up? Try updating your Facebook profile.
Spending just a few minutes on the social networking site can enhance your self-esteem, according to a new study from a journal called Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking. (Yes, that’s a real academic journal.)
According to a leading theory from social psychology (objective self-awareness), exposure to mirrors, photos and recordings of one’s voice encourages people to view themselves the way others see them. This, in turn, is thought to promote “pro-social behavior” and diminish one’s self-esteem.
However, another prominent theory (the hyperpersonal model) among those who study online communication holds that when people have the opportunity to put their best face forward online – by posting flattering photos and emphasizing certain aspects of their personality – they can give their self-esteem a boost.
To test what happens in the real world, psychologists from Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., gave a 10-item self-esteem test to 63 undergrads, divided into three groups. One group took the test after spending 3 minutes on Facebook, another group took the test while able to view themselves in a mirror and a control group had no exposure to anything that would evoke self-awareness.
Using a statistical test, the researchers showed that the Facebook students had greater self-esteem than students in the other two groups. And it wasn’t just a fluke, they wrote. The students who looked at their own profiles for the entire 3 minutes had higher self-esteem than students who spent some of that time clicking around on other people’s Facebook pages. In addition, students who made changes to their Facebook profiles also had higher self-esteem than students who didn’t. Both of those observations support the hyperpersonal model, the authors wrote.
“By allowing people to present preferred or positive information” about themselves, Facebook allows people to ehance their awareness of the optimal self,” the researchers concluded. Some of the self-esteem boost may also be traced to being reminded of how many “friends” one has, they added.
You can read the full study here.