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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Thursday's Psychology Trivia Answer: Does Facebook Change Us for Better or for Worse?

Does Facebook Change Our Personality, Make Us Happier, More Outgoing? *Photos

Thought for the Day: This week the blog has been exploring the impact of online "community living" on our work, lives, & relationships. Yesterday's Words of Wisdom brought renowned psychologist, Howard Gardner's view on online communities. On Monday, I asked for help from the people behind over 43,000 page views to understand what they would like to see here on my blog. (If you missed the post, I hope you will visit, since I really need some help!(A Twist: A Psychologist Needs Your Help, "We Need to Talk.") On Tuesday's Psychology trivia, I asked this psychology trivia question:
            Facebook & Facebook profiles, photos & posts have been found to change our personality by:
                   a) Predicting a couple's happiness
                   b) Contributing to breakups of relationships
                   c) Impacting on Self Affirmation
                   d) Increasing narcissism
                   e) Increasing extroversion
                   f) all of the above
                   g) b), d), & e)
     Now, it's time for the answer. Drum roll please! The answer is f., Facebook (and other social networking sites) have been found to impact on users in both positive & negative ways. Although the negative findings like option b) strain on marriages, option d) increases in narcissistic tendencies & an exaggerated sense of option e) self-importance among teens, get more publicity, there are studies showing positive effects of participating in online communities as well. According to a study reported by Reuters there appears to be a correlation between the number of Facebook "friends" & the size of some parts of the brain. Could online social networking change our brains? Some studies seem to indicate that more extroverted people post more often & are happier than those who post less often. Is not clear yet, if extroversion, increased size of the brain or nacissism come first & lead to being active on virtual communities or increased social networking leads to option e) increased extroversion & d) narcissism.
     An article by TARA PARKER-POPE, Does Facebook Turn People Into Narcissists? in The Well Column reports the findings of a CT study. The study found that frequent Facebook users tended to be more open & less worried about privacy. They therefore do not think that all those who post frequently are narcissists.  Lynne Kelly, director of the school of communication at the University of Hartford & one of the study’s authors, believes, “It’s a huge oversimplification to say Facebook is for narcissists.” She believes that sharing information on facebook is a way to maintain & develop relationships. Privacy concerns which need to be addressed may keep some people from sharing & using online communities. 
      Catalina L. Toma from the University of Wisconsin & Jeffrey T. Hancock from Cornell University found Facebook profiles are (c.) self-affirming in that they enhance users’ need for self-worth & self-integrity. They also found that often promoting a Facebook profile helps people feel better about themselves "after receiving a blow to the ego, in an unconscious effort to repair their perceptions of self-worth." 
     In  Can You See How Happy We Are? Facebook Images and Relationship Satisfaction results of a study by Laura R. Saslow, University of California; Amy Muise,  University of Toronto, Emily A. Impett & Matt Dubin  Claremont Graduate University were cited. They found that couples who posted pictures of both members of the couple in their profile pictures on Facebook, reported (a) "feeling more satisfied with their relationships & closer to their partners" than people who did not share joint photos on their individual profiles. They also found that "on days when they felt more satisfied with their relationships, they were more likely to share relationship relevant information on Facebook."   
     It seems to me that the jury is still out on how Facebook (& social networking) impacts on our lives & relationships. It can be detrimental, beneficial or neutral depending on how you choose to use the communities. Online connections can develop into offline relationships. Relationships can be maintained & enhanced or severed & hurtful in "virtual" online or in "real" offline life. What seems to be clear, however, is that virtual communities are growing in all age groups & are here to stay for better or for worse. My suggestion is that we should learn how to use online communities for social good, since the potential benefits seem worth it.  
     What do you think? Do the benefits outweigh the risks? How can we enhance the benefits & reduce the negatives of online communities?  
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Smadar said...

Fascinating! I believe that like everything in life, some people are better at using facebook than others. It's a skill and to some it comes naturally, and some develop it. How your particular group of friends uses facebook is also important. If your group is active and uses it often, you both feel the need to do the same, and at the same time, get much more feedback from your friends. If your friends check once a week or once a month, then even if you are post great things, you won't get feedback. I believe that there was a lot more pressure to post and"collect" friends a few years ago. Now, it's relaxed some what, and people are figuring out what it means to them and how the choose to utilize it. I

t seems like a very complex phenomenon to study as it is so multilayered. Sounds like psychologist have a whole new field, the psychology of social media, within psychology.

Barbara Lavi said...

I think psychology is only beginning to realize the importance of the psychology of social media. there will be more & more studies. Given the cyberbullying that has been occurring among children & teens, psychologists & educators need to explore this new field & help guide parents in this brave new world of online social communities.