Updating your Facebook status with the torrid details of your bad day? Think twice: People with low self-esteem who post negative details about their lives on Facebook may find their online friends diminishing.
Amanda Forest, a graduate student at the University of Waterloo, in Canada, had expected that a new study, which she and her adviser, Joanne Wood, recently had published in Psychological Science, would show that Facebook promoted stronger relationships for those with low self-esteem. Instead, the researchers found that too many negative posts can cause social harm.
“If you’re talking to somebody in person and you say something, you might get some indication that they don’t like it, that they’re sick of hearing your negativity,” Forest said. “On Facebook, you don’t see most of the reactions.”
The research involved multiple components: In one study, the authors asked students how they felt about Facebook. People with low self-esteem were more likely to view Facebook as a safe way to connect with others — possibly leading them to make negative personal disclosures. They also analyzed reactions to actual posts, and how much the reader liked the person who wrote the posts. Readers liked those who had low self-esteem and posted negative comments less than those with high self-esteem who posted positive updates more frequently.
The researchers were surprised by the results.
“We had this idea that Facebook could be a really fantastic place for people to strengthen their relationships,” Forest said.