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Facebook: Not for the Negative
Facebook can be a boon for the socially awkward, a place where they can express themselves openly and connect more easily with others than they do in everyday life. But research from the University of Waterloo suggests that people with low self-esteem may end up making life harder for themselves with their Facebook posts.
This happens because of the high negativity of their posts. Most people don't take well to negativity. In day to day life, they offer feedback on this with their comments or their body language or by walking away. On Facebook, they rarely respond to negative posts. The negativity still adds to their dislike of the poster, but the poster never hears about it.
The study found that people with low self-esteem do feel that Facebook meets a need, providing a safe place that reduces the discomfort they'd feel if making the same disclosures face to face. But they don't seem to be aware that their unhappy posts are hurting their social standing.
Low self-esteem can darken a person's view of the world and the people in it. And that's often reflected in the negative tone of their posts.
That's exactly what the researchers found in the students' posts. Coders read students' last 10 Facebook posts and rated them for how positive or negative they were. Posts from people with low self-esteem tended to be more negative than those with high self-esteem and the coders ended up liking the posters less because of this.
The study also found that people with low self-esteem get more responses to their positive posts than to their negative posts.
Negative posts come from the heart. They're what the poster is feeling. Unfortunately, other people are rarely interested. They have their own problems and negative posters should be aware of this. Even if they don't feel like changing the tone of their posts, they could mix in some more positive posts, just as an experiment. It might help improve their social life, both online and off.
An article on the study was published online in Psychological Science.
February 22, 2012