Social networking sites can blow up self-esteem, as positive feedbacks – Facebook likes, retweets, plausive comments, etc. – shape user behavior, according to researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and Columbia Business School.
The paper entitled “Are Close Friends the Enemy? Online Social Networks, Self-Esteem, and Self-Control” shows that social network users tend to boost self-esteem and reduce self-discipline (both online and offline) after receiving favorable feedback; thus, changing their demeanor.
The researchers proved that users who focus on close friends are likely to increase self-esteem as they browse through social networking sites.
Apart from losing self-control, users who spent more time on social networks to engage with friends had the highest body-mass indices (BMI) and inflated credit card debts, according to the paper.
Coauthor Andrew Stephen of University of Pittsburgh said, to their knowledge, this is the first academic paper to demonstrate how social networks influence self-control, and the best way to prove their point is through the world’s largest social network: Facebook.
Co-authored by Keith Wilcox of Columbia Business School, the academic paper includes the results of five different studies conducted with more than 1,000 Facebook users in the United States.
First Study – Strong Ties
The initial study made participants fill surveys about how close they are with friends on Facebook. The authors divided them into two groups: one group wrote about Facebook browsing while the other group browsed Facebook. After that, both groups filled out a self-esteem survey.
Regardless of writing about Facebook browsing or actually browsing the website, participants who had weak ties to friends on Facebook did not increase their self-esteem, but those with strong ties to Facebook friends increased their sense of self-esteem.
Second Study – Self-Esteem
The second study assessed why Facebook users who have strong ties to friends increased their self-esteem. The researchers divided the participants again into two groups and made them browse Facebook for five minutes. One group focused on status updates and other information shared to them; the other group focused on information they were sharing.
Facebook browsing increased self-esteem only when the participants focused on sharing information to other people.
Third Study – Self-Control
Stephen and Wilcox told participants in the third study to check Facebook.com or visit and read news on CNN.com. After that, the authors asked them to eat only one of two items: a granola bar or a chocolate-chip cookie.
Facebook browsers were more likely to eat the chocolate-chip cookie.
Fourth Study – Mental Exhaustion
In the fourth study, the researchers gave participants anagram word puzzles to solve after browsing Facebook or reading celebrity gossip site TMZ.com.
Facebook browsers were more likely to quit on the puzzles.
Fifth Study – Offline Behavior
The fifth study probed the relationship between social network usage and offline behaviors related to poor self-control. Participants filled out a survey about their height and weight, credit card debts, and the number of offline friends, among others.