“The popular media have publicized the idea that social networking Web sites (e.g., Facebook) may enrich the interpersonal lives of people who struggle to make social connections. The opportunity that such sites provide for self-disclosure-a necessary component in the development of intimacy–could be especially beneficial for people with low self-esteem, who are normally hesitant to self-disclose and who have difficulty maintaining satisfying relationships. We suspected that posting on Facebook would reduce the perceived riskiness of self-disclosure, thus encouraging people with low self-esteem to express themselves more openly. In three studies, we examined whether such individuals see Facebook as a safe and appealing medium for self-disclosure, and whether their actual Facebook posts enabled them to reap social rewards. We found that although people with low self-esteem considered Facebook an appealing venue for self-disclosure, the low positivity and high negativity of their disclosures elicited undesirable responses from other people. . . .

What, then, should people with low self-esteem do to use social networking more constructively? Discouraging people with low self-esteem from ever expressing negativity on Facebook seems unwise. Their negative Facebook disclosures may provide them with nonsocial benefits (e.g., improved physical and mental health; Pennebaker & Chung, 2007). And we do not advocate being inauthentic. However, given that more positive and less negative updates are better liked by strangers than are less positive, more negative updates (Studies 2 and 3) and that people with low self-esteem receive better responses from Facebook friends for more positive updates than for less positive updates (Study 3), people with low self-esteem might benefit from making more positive and less negative updates. Rather than posting phony positive updates, however, people with low self-esteem might try to share more of the positive things that do happen to them and to be selective about what negative things they post. Perhaps, then, Facebook really could be a tool that not only makes the world “open and connected” (Facebook, 2011a), but also one that helps people with low self-esteem create rewarding social relationships.”

–Amanda L. Forest and Joanne V. Wood. “When Social Networking Is Not Working: Individuals with Low Self-Esteem Recognize But Do Not Reap the Benefits of Self-Disclosure on Facebook.” Psychological Science 23.3 (March 2012):295-302. Sage Journals. Web. Quote from the abstract and the final paragraph.

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