We’ve all had our rough spots, our moments when the lack of self esteem just seems overwhelming. For some though, that happens more than for others, and whenever you’re feeling down, probably Facebook is the last place you’d want to go.
But a research conducted by researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison has found that looking at your Facebook profile for no more than five minutes can lift both the spirits and the self esteem.
“Most have a very large audience of friends and they selectively present the best version of self, but they do so in an accurate manner,” Catalina Toma, an assistant professor of communication arts at University of Wisconsin-Madison who led the study, told ABC News. “We had people look at their own profiles for five minutes and found that they experienced a boost in self-esteem in a deep, unconscious level.”
The a group of participants was asked to look at their Facebook profile and then take the Implicit Association Test; this is a standardized test which measures a person’s association between mental representations of objects (concepts) in memory. Toma wanted to see what kind of words they associated with “I”, “me”, “myself” and “my”. She found that the facebook group was much more prone to associating themselves with positive words.
She then wanted to see if “significant boost” in self-esteem had any impact on behavior and motivation. She asked the participants to do another simple test: they were asked to subtract the number seven from a series of large numbers. The people who had looked at their Facebook profile were much more motivated to do good in the test.
“Facebook gives you a real good image of yourself, but you then don’t have to look for that in other ways,” she said. “Your motivation to perform well might be reduced because you already feel really good.”
Of course, not all of social networking is positive – a big chunk of it is very negative. Another study found that exhibitionism can greatly affect one’s self esteem, and another report from the the University of Gothenburg in Sweden similarly found that users who spend more time on Facebook have lower self-esteem. Toma was very clear about this:
“People don’t always understand that they, themselves put their best face forward on Facebook and so does everyone else,” she said. “It seems like everyone could be having more fun than you are or a more meaningful life. Facebook is a really multifaceted and complex psychological platform.”