The two faces of Facebook


Looking at your Facebook profile can be psychologically good. . . and bad. It appears that checking in on your profile can boost self-esteem but also reduce motivation.

Your idealized self at play

The reality of Facebook is that your profile is your idealized self, published for all to see. So when you look at it, review it, read comments… it boosts your self-esteem and ego. Lead researcher Catalina Toma, a UW-Madison assistant professor of communication arts, used the “Implicit Association Test” to check on Facebook’s effect on self-esteem. This test evaluates the strength of a person’s automatic association between adjectives and terms referring to self like “me” and “I”. The test found that after five minutes of viewing their own Facebook profile, the study participants experienced a surge of positive self-esteem.

Facebook can increase self-esteem

“If you have high self-esteem, then you can very quickly associate words related to yourself with positive evaluations but have a difficult time associating words related to yourself with negative evaluations. But if you have low self-esteem, the opposite is true,” said Toma. “Our culture places great value on having high self-esteem. For this reason, people typically inflate their level of self-esteem in self-report questionnaires. The Implicit Association Test removes this bias.”

Facebook also de-motivates you

So while Facebook can improve your mental picture of yourself, it can affect behavior adversely. The same participants were asked to perform a serial subtraction test where they counted backwards from a large number by intervals of seven. People who looked at their Facebook page before the test, burned out early and answered fewer questions. Researchers theorized that since people were in the midst of a self-esteem boost, they weren’t motivated to answer questions to gain a sense of achievement and self-worth. “This study shows that exposure to your own Facebook profile reduces motivation to perform well in a simple, hypothetical task. It does not show that Facebook use negatively affects college students’ grades, for example. Future work is necessary to investigate the psychological effects of other Facebook activities, such as examining others’ profiles or reading the newsfeed.”

Source: MedicalNewsToday, Media Psychology


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