Aug 16, 2013 10:46 AM EDT
Facebook Use Bad For Self-Esteem No Matter Why You Log On
Researchers from the University of Michigan (UM) published their study Wednesday in the journal PLOS One. The study tested participants over two weeks and tracked their moment-to-moment mood while visiting the site.
The researchers found no matter how many online friends a user had, no matter how supportive they were and no matter what they visited Facebook for, they ended up leaving feeling worse about themselves.
"We were able to show on a moment-to-moment basis throughout the day how people's mood fluctuated depending on their Facebook usage," said UM social psychologist Ethan Kross, lead author of the study.
Other studies suggest social media can worsen people with low self-esteem's image of themselves by trying to edit their own online image. Separate work on the subject has also found Facebook to create envy in people when viewing others' activity online.
"We measured lots and lots of other personality and behavioral dimensions, like, for example, frequency of Facebook use," Kross said. "But none of the factors that we assessed influenced the results. The more you used Facebook, the more your mood dropped."
Other studies have shown that viewing one's own page can be self-affirming. Others have suggested it is an ideal medium for civic outreach and getting people involved in their community.
This is one of the first studies to follow its subjects, Facebook's core demographic college-aged participants, over time. The participants' usage was monitored for 14 days and each had to fill out a questionnaire at the beginning and end of each day, rating their personal well being.
The researchers found that loneliness could predict changes in use, but when they controlled for loneliness, they found it did not change users' relationship with Facebook.
"One of the things we don't know is what aspect of Facebook use is contributing to these results," Kross said. "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."
University of Wisconsin communications researcher Catalina Toma, not involved in the research, had contradictory findings in a previous study of her own. She said to find truly accurate results, a study would have to examine what a person does while on Facebook.
"I think what's happening, honestly, is that Facebook is such a gigantic space where so many different activities take place," said Toma, who was not involved in the study. "So for us to be simply talking about Facebook use is an over-simplification. Facebook use is not just one thing; it is many, many different things."
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