Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Is Facebook a Self Esteem Downer?!

Social networking has allowed friends, family, and acquaintances to share their day to day, and sometimes hour to hour, and even at times, minute to minute daily happenings with a wide network of people.  People use Facebook to post exciting life changes, hilarious pictures from weekends or vacations past, and quirky daily happenings that they hope others will find amusing.  There are also the negative posts.  We are all entitled to bad days or unfortunate situations.  In those times of great pain people reach out to their community of Facebook "friends" asking for support, prayers, and perhaps guidance.  Life happens...and support is essential.  However, a new study, to be published soon in Psychological Science, found interesting connections between Facebook, self-esteem, and negative thoughts or feelings.

Amanda Forest and Joanne Wood of the University of Waterloo, found that individuals with low self esteem, who tended to post more frequent negative thoughts, feelings, or events on their Facebook wall, received less attention and fewer responses from the Facebook community.  Forest and Wood found that individuals liked the study participants with low-self esteem less than those with higher self-esteem using a rating system.  

This study simply showed that individuals with low self-esteem are likely to overwhelm their "friends" with too many negative life details, making them less likable.  One might therefore hypothesis that as people do not respond, self esteem continues to remain low.  In comparison, researchers found that individuals with high self-esteem who posted a negative remark, were viewed by individuals in the study as more likable and more likely to receive "comments".  This is likely because individuals with healthy levels of self-esteem are less likely to regularly post negative thoughts or feelings.  

Given that nearly 50% of a person's Facebook "friends" are in reality strangers or acquaintances, Facebook is not the ideal place to turn when you are feeling low.  If you scan your last few status updates and find that you are more likely to post your hardships than anything else, you have a few options.

1)  Seek out a friend to have a one on one conversation.  It is easier to read someone's body language and social cues when you are sitting with them.  They can also aid you in working out your problems in a solution focused manner if you are present with them and not secluded with your computer.

2)  If you are really feeling low, it can never hurt to seek out a therapist and begin individual therapy.  Depending on your therapy goals you could improve your mood and coping skills in a few sessions.  

3)  Challenge yourself to put out positivity, in hopes of receiving it in return.  Be genuine.  If you are having an off day, make personal contact with someone.  Dial up a pal, before you hit the post button.  I would be willing to bet you will feel much better! 

Bad days happen!  The occasional negative Facebook post happens!  That's fine, and your true friends will likely call you before you call them.  However, if your negative thoughts out number the good, consider reaching out to a professional!  

Psychology Today offers a wonderful therapist locator! 

Now if I could...I would "LIKE" these comments:

I keep my mind focused on peace, harmony, health, love and abundance.  Then, I can't be distracted by doubt, anxiety, or fear.
Edith Armstrong

Live so that when other people think of integrity, enthusiasm, commitment, and caring, they think of you.

Watch your thoughts; they become words.  Watch your words; they become actions; Watch your actions; they become habits.  Watch your habits; they become character.  Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.
Frank Outlaw