“Mirror, mirror on the wall/Who in the land is fairest of all?” But unlike Snow White’s Queen, many people don’t feel better after gazing at their wall mirror. Facebook walls, on the other hand, can have a positive influence on the self-esteem of college students, report social media researchers at Cornell.
This is probably because Facebook allows them to put their best face forward, says Jeffrey Hancock, associate professor of communication; users can choose what they reveal about themselves and filter anything that might reflect badly.
Feedback from friends posted publicly on people’s profiles also tend to be overwhelmingly positive, which can further boost self-esteem, said Hancock, who co-authored a paper published Feb. 24 in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking.
“Unlike a mirror, which reminds us of who we really are and may have a negative effect on self-esteem if that image does not match with our ideal, Facebook can show a positive version of ourselves,” Hancock said. “We’re not saying that it’s a deceptive version of self, but it’s a positive one.”
It may be one of the reasons why Facebook has 500 million users, who spend more than 700 billion minutes per month communicating with their friends via photos, links and status updates.
“For many people, there’s an automatic assumption that the Internet is bad. This is one of the first studies to show that there’s a psychological benefit of Facebook,” Hancock said.