Using Facebook can increase your self-esteem, according to a new study from Cornell University researchers, published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking. Researchers Amy Gonzales and Jeffrey Hancock conducted the experiment with three groups of 21 students each in the university's Social Media Lab.
The first one was the control group, which sat in front of blank computer screens for three minutes. The second group of individuals had mirrors propped up against their computer monitors and spent their three minutes looking at their own reflections. The third group was allowed to surf their own Facebook profiles and its associated tabs for the allotted time. At the end, all three groups were given a self-esteem questionnaire.
The Facebook group saw a spike in their self-esteem, while the control and mirror groups showed no discernible change in their self-esteem levels. I'd wager it probably helps that most people's Facebook Wall is covered with positive messages and personal information that brings back good memories. Remember, the point of Facebook is to connect or reconnect with people who care about you or find you interesting.
"Unlike a mirror, which reminds us of who we really are and may have a negative effect on self-esteem if that image does not match with our ideal, Facebook can show a positive version of ourselves," Hancock said in a statement. "We're not saying that it's a deceptive version of self, but it's a positive one. For many people, there's an automatic assumption that the Internet is bad. This is one of the first studies to show that there's a psychological benefit of Facebook."
"There are not a lot of theories that have been tested within the computer-mediated communications field compared to other communications subfields, so this was exciting from a theoretical perspective," Gonzales said in a statement. "By providing multiple opportunities for selective self-presentation -- through photos, personal details and witty comments -- social-networking sites exemplify how modern technology sometimes forces us to reconsider previously understood psychological processes."
Wait a minute. Didn't we already find out that Facebook is stressful, or at least for those with a lot of friends? Correct, but this study limited Facebook use to just the user's own profile.
In other words, if you want to give your self-esteem a quick boost, don't browse Facebook. Go look at your own Facebook profile, and only your own Facebook profile.