Having a profile on the social networking site Facebook may help boost your self-esteem and even affect your behaviour, a first-of-its-kind study has found.
A Facebook profile is an ideal version of self, full of photos and posts curated for the eyes of family, friends and acquaintances, researchers said.
The study shows that this version of self can provide beneficial psychological effects and influence behaviour.
Catalina Toma, a University of Wisconsin-Madison assistant professor of communication arts, used the Implicit Association Test to measure Facebook users' self-esteem after they spent time looking at their profiles, the first time the social psychology research tool has been used to examine the effects of Facebook.
The test showed that after participants spent just five minutes examining their own Facebook profiles, they experienced a significant boost in self-esteem. The test measures how quickly participants associate positive or negative adjectives with words such as me, my, I and myself.
"If you have high self-esteem, then you can very quickly associate words related to yourself with positive evaluations but have a difficult time associating words related to yourself with negative evaluations," Toma said.
"We wanted to know if there are any additional psychological effects that stem from viewing your own self-enhancing profile," says Toma, whose work will be published in the journal Media Psychology.
Toma found that self-esteem boost that came from looking at their profiles ultimately diminished participants' performance in the follow-up task by decreasing their motivation to perform well.
After people spent time on their own profile they attempted fewer answers during the allotted time than people in a control group, but their error rate was not any worse.
Toma said the results are consistent with self-affirmation theory, which claims that people constantly try to manage their feelings of self-worth.
"Performing well in a task can boost feelings of self-worth," Toma says.
"However, if you already feel good about yourself because you looked at your Facebook profile, there is no psychological need to increase your self-worth by doing well in a laboratory task," said Toma.
But Toma cautions against drawing broad conclusions about Facebook's impact on motivation and performance based on this particular study, as it examines just one facet of Facebook use.