Social networking sites like Facebook have proven to be helpful for keeping in touch with friends and family. They also entertain us when we’re bored, or simply looking for conversation. But can these sites be ruining our mood and self image?
According to a study led by the University of Michigan, this might be the case. Research led by Ethan Kross, a psychologist at the University of Michigan, found that after two weeks of Facebook use, participants of the study felt worse about themselves.
During his study, Kross noticed that there weren’t any factors that changed the results of the outcome. Even if the person wasn’t a frequent user of Facebook, their mood still dropped being on the website.
A few questions still remain unanswered by Kross’ research.
As many of us know, Facebook is many different areas and means of communication in the same space. Kross is unable to determine what area(s) of Facebook bring on such loneliness.
“Facebook and online social networks more generally represent a very new way in which human beings are interacting, and we’re really just beginning to scratch the surface as to how exactly these interactions work and how they influence us,” said Kross in an interview with Los Angeles Times.
A different study done by social scientists at Humboldt University in Berlin and Darmstadt’s Technical University found that Facebook also makes us envious.
These scientists conducted a survey of 357 people which asked what they thought made people feel bad while looking at Facebook. A third of the participants responded with jealousy.
Other researchers found that once we become envious of others, we go through something called the “self-promotion envy cycle.” During this cycle, we tend to pump our own accomplishments to channel our inner feeling of jealousy. Sometimes, we even hide the posts that make us jealous, or stay off of Facebook completely. This is only until the feeling of jealousy subsides.
Quite a few other studies done on how Facebook affects us have found the opposite result.
Some researchers believe that Facebook actually makes us feel better about ourselves through self affirmation, the recognition and assertion of our individual values.
Participants in this study were asked to write down a list of their beliefs and create an essay about the belief they held most strongly. After the essay was written, psychologists note that the participants had a better reaction when their belief was insulted. The essay helped with their self-affirmation.
According to psychologists, the self affirming essay is equivalent to looking at your own Facebook profile. If you think about it, your profile on Facebook contains your interests, likes, and personal preferences. The belief written about in the essay symbolizes this part of your profile.
So with all of these different studies and beliefs about Facebook and how it affects us, what should we believe?
A survey done by Common Sense Media asked over 1,000 teenagers from ages 13-17 how they viewed social media sites like Facebook. The answer was surprising.
More teenagers said that sites like Facebook have a positive influences on our lives and our relationships with friends and family. They also believed that these networks build confidence.
Through all of these studies, scientist and researchers have gained more knowledge on how social networking affects us, both positively and negatively. They’ve even been able to understand how teenagers view social media.
Many factors contribute to the positive and negative effects of social networking: what we’re viewing on the website, how strongly we hold our individual values, and more generally, if we’re the jealous type or not.
Unfortunately, there is no definite conclusion as to how these networks affect us. As it stands now, the impact of social networking will be different each time we use it.