Facebook psychology

By Maddie Binning

Maddie Binning is a senior at Minnehaha Academy and Editor in Chief of the Talon Newspaper. Maddie has worked on the Talon for four years and hopes to study journalism in university. When she isn't working on the paper, Maddie is both a freelance photographer and a photographer at Lifetouch Portrait Studios. She also has a passion for reading, music and traveling.

Posted: July 13, 2012

How using social media affects your thinking

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg began selling the long-awaited Facebook stock last week on May 18. The value of Facebook has been estimated at nearly $100 billion, and Zuckerberg is now worth about $18 billion himself. With the recent sales, the value of Facebook can be determined, but how does Facebook affect your personal value?

Junior Grace DuBois logged onto Facebook once and made a post. After two “likes”, she began to feel curious. DuBois then logged in as her freshman sister, Tori DuBois, and made a similar post, which ended up getting upwards of 15 “likes”.

Though Tori uses Facebook more frequently, this difference in numbers was still surprising.

“It was not that big of a deal,” said Grace. “But if I were the type of person who needed a lot of other people’s approval, it might have been.”

Since its founding in 2004, Facebook has been a popular outlet for social networking. But aside from giving users a way to connect with friends, Facebook may also affect users’ self-esteem. Studies in recent years have not agreed on whether the effect is positive or negative, and it seems the answer may be both.

In January, a study from Utah Valley University suggested that heavy Facebook users may have lower self esteem. After surveying 425 college students, they found that those who used Facebook the most were very likely to think that others had better lives than they did. The study concluded that because of all the positive posts of others, users felt as though they were not as exciting or successful as their peers.

On the other hand, a study from February of last year published in an issue of Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking suggested that viewing and editing your own profile can improve self esteem. This study showed that the ability to filter our online lives allows for better self perception. Being able to select what goes on your profile was thought to give users a better look at the positive aspects of their life. Similar studies have shown a rise in self esteem from receiving “likes” or comments on posts.

Freshman Jake Siegel has found that Facebook generally helps his self esteem.

“When someone ‘likes’ or comments on something of mine, it lets me know that people are interested in what I’m doing and they can relate to it in some way,” said Siegel. “I can share my experiences with them through Facebook.”

Although Siegel does find the overall effect positive, he understands how seeing the lives of others can hurt.

“When they’re [on] vacation in Mexico and I’m stuck at home, yeah, it can make me feel bad,” said Siegel.

College and Guidance Counselor Richard Harris agrees that there are both negative and positive sides to Facebook.

“Teenagers are very hyper-connected, and it’s very important for a student to have a connection with their peers,” said Harris. “It used to just be that you would talk to your one friend over the phone. Now fortunately and unfortunately, you can get positive and negative feedback from multiple people.”

Though Facebook is the outlet, Harris believes that what you post determines how it affects you.

“It can be somewhat unhealthy for a student to intentionally post certain things in hopes of seeing what reaction they can get,” said Harris. “[Facebook] opens up the world for negative comments.”

However, sophomore Meghan Duerre finds Facebook to be solely beneficial.

“It always makes you feel good about yourself if you get ‘likes’ or comments,” said Duerre. “It’s like ‘Oh, people actually pay attention to me.’ It’s not a big deal, but it’s nice.”

College and Guidance Counselor Lauren Bae points out that each person is affected differently.

“At different stages of one’s life, people need different types of affirmation,” said Bae. “Sometimes the affirmation is external, and sometimes the affirmation is internal. Some people just need more external affirmation than others, and it doesn’t make it good or bad.”

Psychotherapist Adam Arnold (‘01) has found that self expression online can improve self perception.

“It’s nice for people to have their own little wall,” said Arnold. “It’s kind of like their own little creation and they can do with it what they want, and it lets them express themselves. It can be nice for identity.”

But despite this positive aspect, Arnold still warns users to be aware of themselves.

“Each of us has to monitor how it’s affecting us individually,” said Arnold. “For all of us, there’s a potential for it to become maladaptive. There’s a lot of stuff on Facebook that can be very exaggerated.”

Affirmation and envy aside, junior Eamonn Manion finds that online put downs can have a huge affect on a person’s self esteem.

“If someone has a really sad post, some people might go on there and try to build them up,” said Manion. “But, for someone to go on there and say ‘Yeah, you’re right, you’re worthless’, that’s not ok. Get off.”

MIT professor Sherry Turkle commented in an interview with Marketplace Tech, a public radio program, on the digital identity people create.

“When we text, or when we e-mail, we present the self we want to be,” said Turkle. “When we’re really talking to each other, you get to see the hesitations, you get to see when people stumble, they are a little bit more who they are. And I think we’ve gotten used to the little sips of online connection that we’ve sort of forgotten the difference.”

Vice Principal Mike DiNardo cautions people not to get too caught up with Facebook.

“What you normally don’t know about a person is all of the sudden out there,” said DiNardo. “But it’s a dream world, and people need to get past that. The biggest challenge is just getting unplugged for a bit, so you can have your own thoughts.”


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