Social media is a great thing; it enables many of us to reach out to friends and family who are far away, to catch fun pics of our loved ones and their children, and even to experience exotic foods and ‘travel to far-off countries’ with our eyes. While nobody who uses Facebook regularly would ever take back this wonderful social medium, it is important to note that social media can affect your self-esteem, and can also speak volumes about how you feel about yourself. These are just a few interesting studies carried out on the subject, which you should be aware of if you use Facebook regularly:
- Facebook can result in a decrease in mental wellbeing: A study by Professor Izak Benbasat and colleagues from the Sauder School of Business found that Facebook use can lead to a cycle of jealousy and self-importance, leading users to feel that their lives can seem less fulfilling than those of people on their Friends list. Facebook use has also been linked to narcissistic behavior and anxiety.
- Facebook use can lead to symptoms of depression: In the recent article, Seeing Everyone Else’s Highlight Reels: How Facebook Usage is Linked to Depressive Symptoms,” published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, researcher Mai-Ly Steers notes that viewing others’ status posts can bring about feelings of depression. Facebook often provides us with information we would normally not be able to access, and this encourages us to compare our lives to those of our friends and to attach less value to our own.
- Teens who have over 300 Facebook Friends have higher levels of stress hormone, cortisol: Who thought that having many friends could actually raise one’s stress levels? Once again, it probably has a lot to do with comparison – teens compare everything from social circles to clothing and possession, and even body image. Considering that adolescence is a time during which many teens can develop eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia, focusing on others’ body images can lead to feeling of inadequacy. There is a silver lining to this cloud, though – teens who support friends on Facebook by liking their posts or encouraging them in current endeavors – lowered their cortisol levels.
- Facebook use can be addictive: Studies have shown that this is especially true when user log onto Facebook to fulfil specific goals – the latter may include receiving a specific amount of likes, receiving answers to questions, or receiving feedback from friends to better comprehend themselves.
- Excessive Facebook use can damage relationships: Studies have shown that high levels of Facebook use can negatively affect our relationship with our significant other. Partners of frequent users can feel jealousy or inadequacy and conflict can ensue. One study, undertaken by researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia, found that Facebook dependency can spark related conflict, with cheating, break-ups and divorces more likely to ensue.
On a more positive note, other studies have shown that Facebook is not always related to poor self-esteem:
- One study carried out by researchers at the University of North Carolina Health Care, found that college women who are more emotionally invested in Facebook are less worried about their body image and are less likely to take part in destructive behaviors (including excessive dieting). However, this is only the case when they do not use Facebook to compare their body size and shape with others’. In the study, over 100 women completed a survey with questions to ascertain whether or not they were prey to disordered eating. The researchers asked questions regarding whether or not women took part in behavior that was risky to their health – for instance, dieting, purging, or going on fasts. They also inquired into how much time the women were on Facebook, how many friends they had, and whether or not they compared themselves to their friends.
The last mentioned study and the experience of millions of users indicates that Facebook can be a magnificent tool to promote social support and to strengthen connections with family and friends. Getting the most out of this social medium involves two things: moderation, and using it to promote healthy aims (such as friendship, caring and connection). While researchers warn of the possible negative effects of Facebook use, they alo enlighten us on the importance of keeping our bearings and realizing that all that glitters is not gold – a status report is not a life, nor is the absence of exciting pictures and events on our own walls, indicative of lack of meaning or fulfillment.