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Expert perspective: Facebook effects discussion grows with new research

Photo: Photark via Flickr

With online communities exploding, we tend to spend a lot of time examining and tailoring our online profiles to portray a desirable image for friends and followers. Well, according to researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, this may not be a bad thing.

Results of a new study show that participants who examined their Facebook profiles experienced a boost in their self-esteem afterwards, but also a loss in motivation.

In the study, participants viewed their profile at least five minutes and then took an assessment to calculate their feelings of self-worth. Results showed people associated themselves with positive or flattering words more often than people who hadn’t looked at their personal profile beforehand.

However, after viewing their profiles and taking the test, participants performed more poorly on a simple subtraction task compared to the group without exposure to Facebook.

According to Katie Cullen, M.D., an assistant professor in the University of Minnesota’s Department of Psychiatry and expert in adolescent psychiatry, this research adds another piece to the growing discussion on the overall effects of Facebook.

“I believe the impact of Facebook on self-esteem and motivation really varies by what a patient’s underlying self-esteem and depression status is,” said Cullen. “For some people, heavy Facebook use is just fine and for others, not so much.”

Cullen stresses a focus on younger Facebook users would be helpful, as their social development is in its delicate stages. However, this research could show a positive side of Facebook use for young people.

“Sometimes, younger people could benefit from simply seeing their positive traits and interactions laid out in front of them, as Facebook offers,” said Cullen. “It can be very satisfying.”

UW researchers noted the testing didn’t include the entire Facebook experience. A lot of work still needs to be done on the effects viewing other people’s profiles and scanning news feeds.

What do you think? Is Facebook giving you a great place to see your strengths or just showcasing your weaknesses? Let us know your opinion by leaving a comment below.

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