Study shows social networking sites can lead to negative self-image

Facebook and other social utilities change the way we communicate with each other. We are able to chat faster, with less effort and with more people than ever before.  We now keep track of hundreds of people on a daily basis.  In my project I will explore how these excess relationships affect our lives.  What are the ramifications of replacing one-on-one human interaction with technological devices?

An article I found recently in the Stanford Daily, written by undergraduate Jenny Thai, will be extremely useful as I continue to explore this topic.  It discusses a study that was conducted by Stanford psychologists Carol Dweck and James Gross.  Their research found that when looking at friends’ facebook profiles, people became depressed, thinking their peers were leading happier, more fulfilled lives.  This distortion of reality is imperative in our understanding of how relationships have evolved differently with the advent of social networking.

The article discusses how “loneliness has a positive correlation with the underestimation of the unhappiness of others.”  This is a concept that I have experienced myself, but it was strange to hear about it from a scientific perspective. Most people I have discussed with so far, regarding this concept have said they have felt similar feelings when looking online at others’ profiles. This article has helped pinpoint the reasoning behind these emotions.  Most people want to create a facebook identity that seems to be having fun all the time.  Lonely and depressed moments aren’t shared and then followers believe that the person being viewed is happier than they are in actuality.

One part of the news story I found particularly fascinating was the idea that even roommates and extremely close friends overestimated each other’s level of happiness.  This seems strange because I would assume that living with someone or talking to them on a daily basis would be more powerful than whatever was being viewed online.  This shows to me how this problem is so mainstream and large in its scope.

I am looking forward to learning more about this particular study and perhaps even trying to get an interview with some of the psychologists involved!


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2 Responses to Study shows social networking sites can lead to negative self-image

  1. Melissa Sussmann says:

    for the record though….

    I think your topic is very interesting. I know its not directly related to your topic, but have you considered looking into why WoW is so popular? Its really the network of people behind it all that make the game truly addictive. A lot of mmorpgs function similarly. They create networks of people as teams or clans so that they can have a consistent group. Eventually, a lot of the social behaviors you would normally see in these individuals do in person are transferred to in-game. For instance, there are even people who have full on relationships with other online mmorpg players, with only having seen the other person’s toon.

  2. Danny L. says:

    “Their research found that when looking at friends’ facebook profiles, people became depressed, thinking their peers were leading happier, more fulfilled lives.”

    Is this effect novel and unique to our state of always being connected nowadays or simply an amplification of one from earlier times? I wouldn’t really tell people outside of my close friends about the messier details of my life. I’m friends with more than just my closest friends on Facebook, so I suppose that I tailor my message for the “largest audience” possible. I feel like this is the general case for most users, despite the different comfort levels that users may have. From the user’s perspective, they aren’t going to get the full story from every single one of their online friends. There’s very little doubt to me that they’re going to feel like their peers are having more exciting lives because these peers would probably never tell them about the messier bits in any circumstance in the first place. These details are probably too personal for that.

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