Is social networking making us feel good? Take a moment and think: every time you post something on Facebook, are you doing it to get LIKES or because you just want to share a thought? Interestingly, new research from the University of Georgia finds what people may really "like" about social networking are themselves. That's right, we're all self-loving social network freaks. Humans eh? "Despite the name ‘social networks,' much user activity on networking sites is self-focused," said Brittany Gentile, a UGA doctoral candidate who looked at the effects of social networks on self-esteem and narcissism. According to the ground-breaking research the 526 million people who log on to Facebook every day may be boosting their self-esteem in the process. Is that what we're doing? Last time I checked, we were all posting pictures and updating status'. In the new research Gentile, along with UGA psychology professor Keith Campbell and San Diego State University professor Jean Twenge, asked college students to either edit their social networking page on MySpace or Facebook or to use Google Maps. Interestingly, those who edited their MySpace page later scored higher on a measure of narcissism, while those who spent time on their Facebook page scored higher on self-esteem. How you see yourself "Editing yourself and constructing yourself on these social networking sites, even for a short period of time, seems to have an effect on how you see yourself," said Campbell, who heads the department of psychology in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. "They are feeling better about themselves in both cases. But in one they are tapping into narcissism and in the other into self-esteem."
MySpace reported 25 million users as of June 2012 but has lost out since the launch of Facebook. MySpace users participated in the experiment in 2008, when the site had 115 million active users. Facebook users participated in 2011. On both MySpace and Facebook, students scoring higher in narcissism reported having more friends on the site. A total of 151 students, ages 18-22, completed the Narcissistic Personality Inventory as a part of the study. "The NPI measures trait narcissism, which is a stable personality trait," Gentile said. "But spending 15 minutes editing a MySpace page and writing about its meaning was enough to alter self-reports of this trait, suggesting that social networking sites may be a significant influence on the development of personality and identity."
"The two sites operate differently," Gentile said, commenting on the way the sites come across to users. "On MySpace you don't really interact with other people. The pages resemble personal webpages, and a lot of people have become famous on MySpace, whereas Facebook has a standard profile and a company message that sharing will improve the world."
So is the increasing popularity of social networking sites playing a role in these new trends of self-esteem? "Social networking sites are a product and a cause of a society that is self-absorbed," Campbell said. "Narcissism and self-esteem began to rise in the 1980s. Because Facebook came on the scene only seven years ago, it wasn't the original cause of the increases. It may be just another enforcer."