Does Facebook have a positive effect on users with low self-esteem?

That’s the question two researchers from the University of Waterloo attempted to answer in a series of studies published last month in Psychological Science.

What the researchers found, however, suggests that the social-networking site may not be as beneficial for this group as once hypothesized.

“The results of the three studies reported here … suggest that the way in which people with low self-esteem use Facebook may prevent them from reaping its potential social benefits,” the publication reported.

First, the researchers measured whether Facebook users with low self-esteem found the site to be an appealing venue for expression.

“Our first study revealed that people with low self-esteem feel that Facebook is a safe and comfortable place to share their feelings and connect with others,”  Mandy Forest, one of the authors of the publication, told the Daily Dot.

A regression model in the second study, however, revealed that users with low-self esteem tend to express more negative viewpoints.

The third study looked at the effects of this negative communication by giving a handful of status updates to friends and strangers to assess. The results showed that other users got tired of negative posts coming from individuals with low self-esteem more quickly than their high-self-esteem counterparts.

Other studies have suggested that users with low self-esteem may receive benefits from Facebook use, though. For example, a study conducted at the Michigan State University in 2007 suggested that users with low self-esteem feel more connected to their local community.

Forest said that these studies are not contrary to her findings:

“I can see how using Facebook...could help people with low self-esteem to feel connected to others. ... However, I think that our studies capture something that Facebook users may not be aware of: that other people dislike the negative updates that people with low self-esteem tend to post.”

The results of the findings concluded that, while Facebook users with low self-esteem may find the site appealing, their communication of negative thoughts on the site could backfire.

“I think the real take-away message is that Facebook provides a fantastic opportunity to connect with others in a comfortable environment,” said Forest, “but the way in which you use it matters.”

Photo by FranUlloa