Your Facebook Use Can Say A Lot About Your Self-Esteem
September 13, 2013

Self-Esteem Levels Determine How We Use Social Media

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

A person’s level of self-esteem and self-determination may help explain how they create and monitor their online social media personas, according to a new study by researchers at Penn State University.

"The types of actions users take and the kinds of information they are adding to their Facebook walls and profiles are a reflection of their identities," said S. Shyam Sundar, Distinguished Professor of Communications and co-director of the Media Effects Research Laboratory at Penn State.

"You are your Facebook, basically, and despite all its socialness, Facebook is a deeply personal medium."

People with lower self-esteem tend to be much more concerned with what others post about them on Facebook, while users with higher levels of self-esteem spend more effort on adding information to their own personal profiles, Sundar said.

The researchers said that people with both high and low levels of self-esteem spend time creating their online personas on Facebook, but choose different paths in that construction.

Those with higher self-esteem have a greater sense of agency, and spend more time adding information about their family, education and work experience to their profiles, while users with lower self-esteem tend to continuously monitor their wall, and delete unwanted posts from other users, the researcher said.

The findings may also lead to new ways for online social networks to generate revenue.

Because both groups of high self-esteem and low self-esteem Facebook users see the social network as an extension of their self-identity, they may be willing to pay for features on social networks, Sundar said.

For example, social media and social media app developers may be able to attract paying customers with more customizable walls and profile pages.

"The more you get connected to Facebook, the stronger you feel that the items you post -- the pictures, for example -- are part of your identity and the more likely you are going to view these as your virtual possessions," said Sundar.

The researchers analyzed how 225 students from a South Korean university created their Facebook profiles, and how they edited material that friends linked to or posted on their walls.

Participants answered a series of questions about whether they added information to 33 categories of personal data, including details about their family, work and relationships. They also reported on how frequently they updated and changed information on their walls.

To measure levels of self-esteem and self-monitoring, the researchers asked the participants to answer a series questions on self-worth and how they chose to present themselves in public.

The researchers said future studies might investigate how users of different psychological backgrounds take part in other social networking behaviors, such as how often they update photos and how they choose privacy settings.

Sundar, who worked with Jiaqi Nie, a graduate student in interaction science at Sungkyunkwan University in South Korea, reported the findings at INTERACT 2013 in Cape Town, South Africa.