New research published in Media Psychology suggests that looking at your Facebook profile can be psychologically good and bad for you. The finding revealed that checking your profile is capable of boosting your self esteem while at the same time reducing motivation.
A person’s Facebook profile is essentially an ideal representation of one’s self published online for friends and family to see. Using Facebook and looking at your profile page can boost self esteem, but it can also reduce motivation to perform well in simple tasks, according to results of the study.
The lead researcher of the study, Catalina Toma, a UW-Madison assistant professor of communication arts, used the “Implicit Association Test” to assess whether Facebook has any affect on self-esteem or behavior.
This is one of the first studies of its kind to use this psychology research tool to evaluate whether there are any psychological effects associated with using the online networking site.
The Implicit Association Test involved asking the participants to associate positive or negative adjectives with words such as ‘me’ and ‘myself’.
The test is able to evaluate the strength of a person’s automatic association between mental representations of objects (concepts) in memory. In this case the test evaluated what effect Facebook use had on self perception.
Only five minutes after looking at their Facebook profiles the participants experienced a significant boost in self-esteem.
Unlike other self-reporting tools the Implicit Association Test cannot be faked.
“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.”
“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.”
“Does engaging with your own Facebook profile affect behavior?”
The researchers also evaluated the effect Facebook use had on behavior.
All of the Participants had to take a serial subtraction task, which asked them to count down from a large number by intervals of seven.
Depending on how quickly and accurately the participants counted down, the researchers were able to evaluate their motivation to perform well in simple tasks.
Toma and team wanted to know if there are any “additional psychological effects that stem from viewing your own self-enhancing profile.”
People who spent time looking at their Facebook profile before the test answered fewer questions compared to the control group.
The researchers believe that after spending time on Facebook people generally feel good about themselves, so there isn’t as much motivation to increase self-worth by trying hard in the lab task compared to those in the control group.
These results are consistent with the self-affirmation theory.
However, the authors stress that further studies are necessary before making any firm conclusions.
“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.”
Previous research that has similarly looked into the psychological effects of using facebook include:
- A report from the University of Edinburgh Business School said that the more social circles a person is linked to on Facebook the more likely the website will become a source of stress.
- A study in the Journal of Consumer Research, similarly found that using online social networks can have a positive effect on self-esteem and well-being. However, these increased feelings of self-worth can have a detrimental effect on behavior.
- People who are anxious and socially insecure use Facebook more than those with who are more sociable, according to research published in Psychological Reports.
- Researchers at the University of Missouri, published in the journal Psychiatry Research that Facebook activity could be an indicator for psychological health, and be used as tools by therapists and psychologists.
Written by Joseph Nordqvist