Facebook or Fakebook?
No, that’s not a typo, it’s meant to read “Fakebook”. I used to love Facebook and I still do in some ways but there is a psychological downside to Facebook that many people seem to overlook. Fakebook certainly has psychological costs.
Facebook is great for communicating with friends and family, especially if you, like me, have family and friends all over the globe. Despite this advantage, Facebook is pretty fake. People rarely put up pictures of their mistakes or their humiliating experiences. It’s all about putting your best ‘fake’ foot forward. I know that if I am filled with self doubt or feeling that life isn’t quite how I want it to be at certain times, the last thing I do is go on facebook.
It’s all about cheesy and cliched hashtags, sickly expressions of love (often when there is discord at home) and magnification of emotions and activities. Gee, I know I sound cynical and rather bitter but it’s not that. I have no problem with people spreading love and kindness is a genuine way but Facebook seems to be a place to be competitive and show the world how wonderful and fantastic you and your life are. (Pass the bucket).
The consequence of this is that it adds to the superficial world we live in where everyone says they are okay when actually they aren’t. It adds to isolation and to low self esteem. This is the side that I get to see through my work as a counsellor and I see the underlying emotional damage sites like Facebook lead to. Research has shown that Facebook has been contributing to more mental illness in teenagers, low self esteem and self harm.
A study conducted by The University of Gothenburg in Sweden surveyed 335 men and 676 women (average age 32) to help determine the link between self-esteem and Facebook usage. A significant negative relationship between the two was uncovered (as Facebook interaction increased, self-esteem decreased), though the main difference was between genders. Women who used Facebook were apt to feel less happy and content with their lives.
Researchers Elliot Panek, Ph.D., Yioryos Nardis and Sara Konrath, Ph.D., explored the hypothesis that social media reflects and amplifies growing levels of narcissism within our culture. In a study published online in Computers in Human Behavior, the authors believe Facebook is a mirror and Twitter is a megaphone for the cultural obsession with self.
In another study, Christopher Carpenter, an assistant professor of communication at Western Illinois University, posits that Facebook has a dark side. Narcissism is defined in this study as “a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration and an exaggerated sense of self-importance,” Carpenter said. He believes Facebook provides an ideal forum for the average narcissist. Study results confirmed Carpenter’s hypothesis that grandiose exhibitionism is associated with self-promotion and that entitlement/exploitativeness correlates with anti-social behaviors on Facebook.
What about anxiety?
A research study emphasizing the less desirable outcomes of Facebook activity was conducted by Scottish scientists at Edinburgh Napier University, by lead researcher Dr. Kathy Charles. Her research, concluded among other things:
- 12% of the users studied said their Facebook site made them anxious;
- 30% said they felt guiltyabout rejecting friend requests;
- Many said they felt pressure to come up with inventive status updates;
- Many did not like the different rules of online etiquette for different friends.
The obvious question arises, then, in reference to this research, if users felt stress and anxiety why do they keep using Facebook? Dr. Charles contends that the overwhelming majority of participants in her study wanted to use Facebook to keep in contact with friends and not miss out on something important. This generates pressure, Charles argues, keeping users in a state of “neurotic limbo,” similar to gambling—staying in the game waiting for the next good thing to happen.
So it appears that despite its widespread use and well-publicized benefits, a social media site such as Facebook can have some negative effects.