A sad face with a frowning mouth and disappointed eyes. Not to be confused with the pensive face which is more remorseful. …
Tue Sep 7, 6:30 PM
By Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press
A new study of Canadian university students suggests Facebook is a magnet for narcissists and people with low self-esteem.
Participants who were deemed narcissistic, and others shown to have low self-esteem, spent more time on the massively popular social-networking website, the York University research found.
Researcher Soraya Mehdizadeh also found that these people use Facebook as a means of self-promotion.
Mehdizadeh admits the sample group of just 100 participants from such a specific demographic doesn’t necessarily reflect everybody who uses Facebook.
But she expects the findings to prompt the site’s users, who number roughly 16 million in Canada, to take a closer look at themselves — and their Facebook “friends.”
“I think people get sort of defensive about it, like: ‘I don’t use my Facebook for that reason’ — because it’s a label that you don’t want to be slapped with,” she said Tuesday in an interview.
“I don’t know if self-fulfilling prophecy is the word, but it’s sort of like you’ve been believing it at the back of your head . . . and it’s like, ‘I knew they were a narcissist.’ ”
The surveys studied the online habits and personalities of 50 female and 50 male Facebook users between the ages of 18 and 25.
Participants, all York students, took psychological tests that measured their sense of self-esteem and assessed their levels of narcissism. Sections of their Facebook pages were also examined.
The study defined narcissism as a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and an exaggerated sense of self-importance.
Self-esteem was identified as a person’s overall self-evaluation or their worth.
Students who scored lower on the self-esteem scale, as well as those rated higher on the narcissism test, were correlated with a greater number of Facebook checks per day and more time spent on it.
The surveys were conducted two years ago. The findings, published last month in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, also suggest differences between the men and women who use Facebook.
The women surveyed were more likely to self-promote through a carefully selected main photo that might offer a flashy, doctored or revealing image of their physical appearance.
Male participants promoted themselves more though written postings describing themselves in the “About Me” or “Notes” sections.
“It’s really interesting to look at the differences between the online self and the off-line self and to sort of bridge the gap between the two,” Mehdizadeh said of the research, part of her undergraduate thesis.
She painted Facebook as an ideal setting for narcissists who can monitor how many “friends” they have.
It can also serve as a “social lubricant” for those with low self-esteem, since it’s so easy for them to connect with so many people.
For example, Facebook friends can boost the confidence of someone who doesn’t feel good about their physical appearance by posting flattering comments on photos, she added.
“That’s obviously something that might help someone deal with their low self-esteem,” said Mehdizadeh, who is now preparing for medical school.
“If (Facebook) would improve their self-esteem, what great benefits that would have to the health and well-being of people who use the site.”
Facebook said in July that it had 500 million users worldwide, up from the 250 million users it had the year before.
Canada eclipsed the 16-million users mark in May, according to research firm Inside Network.
Does this mean that everyone who spends more than three hours a day on Facebook is narcissitic or has low self-esteem?
“Maybe not,” Mehdizadeh says.
“But what this study does meaningfully achieve, in my opinion, is a contribution to the already existing literature.”
Still, questions remain in a relatively new area of psychology, she added.
“Is it that narcissists are more likely to use Facebook, or people who use Facebook are more likely to become narcissists?”
Facebook has sent window decals out to businesses this week that instruct people to text in short code to “Like” the establishment. The decals were mailed to a limited number of companies in a small test, according to a Facebook spokesperson, who wouldn’t disclose further details.
First reported by Mashable, the decals were accompanied by a letter that offers businesses a $25 credit for Facebook.com ads to promote their “People Who Like” page (or in the former parlance: “fan” page). Carlsbad, CA-based Museum of Making Music is one of the organizations that was sent the Facebook package. B.J. Morgan, marketing director, said he placed the decal (see below) in the museum’s front window on Tuesday evening.
People who see the decal are encouraged to text in, “like MuseumofMakingMusic to 32665,” to join the organization’s Facebook group. Those who text in are sent a bounce-back message that requests them to click a link on their mobile phone to activate Facebook texts. Click-throughs produce a landing page where the user sees a pre-populated confirmation code and a pre-checked box saying, “Add my cell number to my profile.”
Morgan said the decal appears in the establishment’s window “right above the Yelp sticker, which we received a few years ago.”
Indeed, Facebook is following in the footsteps of Yelp and Google’s Favorite Places program in mailing window decals to increase traction in local offline markets. However, the latter pair didn’t pitch free display ads as part of the offer.
Morgan said that his establishment would likely take advantage of the $25 credit to target Facebook users in Southern California. “As a museum, we don’t have a whole lot of money to do advertising,” he said. “We try to do the most we can with what is free out there with Facebook and Twitter. And when MySpace was popular, we’d used that as much as possible to build an audience outside of our physical walls.”
Facebook’s local-oriented test intriguingly comes on the heels of Presence, the geo-location application announced at the social site’s developer’s conference last week. The system will likely allow users to ‘check-in’ similarly to the way Foursquare users do. It’s been recently speculated that Facebook – and its 425 million users – has the much-smaller-but-wildly-hyped Foursquare (1 million users) in its cross-hairs.
“Facebook is adding about 1.2 million users every day,” said Mike Lazerow, CEO of Buddy Media, who stated that he met with Facebook executives last week. He said that the social site’s scale will likely allow it to dominate the geo-location space “even if [theoretically] Foursquare has a 10 times better product.”
At last week’s F8 developers’ conference, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg unveiled plans to offer “instant personalization” all over the Web – a way for websites to become instantly more social. Without even signing in, sites gain access to publicly available Facebook information like your name, profile picture, friend list and more, in order to personalize your experience on the site. At launch, only three partner sites are offering this feature: Microsoft’s new Docs.com, Internet radio Pandora and user review site Yelp. You can opt-out of this experience if you like, but by default, you’re opted in.
These changes have raised concerns among privacy advocates and are even now being questioned by elected officials like U.S. Senator Charles Schumer who is urging the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to look into how social networks handle our private information.
And yet…and yet… after spending the weekend on these “instantly personalized” sites, I have to admit… begrudgingly, mind you… that the experience itself is amazing.
Online Music Gets Personal, Too Personal?
Pandora’s Internet radio is a service I usually partake in via its mobile application on my iPhone, not its regular website. But after the launch of the newly personalized Pandora, I had to take a look.
And it was worth it.
I immediately discovered which of my friends had the same musical interests as I do. My editor, Richard MacManus, for example, is also a fan of The Killers! Who knew? And apparently, a whole bunch of friends are getting into MGMT now.
But finding connections like these aren’t the only types of discoveries you can make here. As social media user extraordinaire Robert Scoble found out, you can easily discover your friends’ more embarrassing personal tastes too. Kenny G?, Scoble laughingly chides a co-worker after stumbling upon his decidedly unhipster musical interests.
These are precisely the types of things we want to stay hidden. Kenny G, for instance. But also our secret obsession with that attractive actor or actress, our fondness for pictures of cute kitties, our forays into celebrity gossip sites when we have a reputation for being intelligent thinkers, our secret Star Wars addiction and so forth and so on.
While there aren’t “instantly personalized” sites showing you all these types of interests just yet, believe me, there will be. If Facebook has its way (And guess what? It will), your real identity, not just the public parts you’ve willingly shared in the past, will be revealed to anyone and everyone unless you take action to opt-out.
The Real You Can No Longer Be Hidden
This is precisely as it should be, Facebook CEO Zuckberberg more or less said. Earlier this year, he made statements regarding Facebook’s new openness, claiming that if he built the social network now, he would make a lot of the data housed there more public by default. This would reflect the current social norms, he said.
But that’s not exactly true. Facebook isn’t reflecting social norms, it’s attempting to create them.
That said, what an amazing creation it is. On Yelp, I can find the reviews my Facebook friends authored with just a click. I can see who else really digs that local sushi place. And I can do all this without going through the whole re-friending process that Web 2.0 sites have put me through in the past again and again.
I’m there, my friends are there, and I didn’t have to do anything to make that happen. Frankly, it feels right. (Fellow ReadWriteWeb blogger Mike Melanson agrees.)
A Minute on the Lips…
But it’s oh so wrong, isn’t it? By giving into Facebook’s vision for the Web, we’re ceding control of our data, our likes, our interests, our “social graph” (a.k.a who we know, who we friend) – everything – to one company. Historically, one very, very closed company. We’re definitely worried about the implications of that. You should be too.
But in the meantime, like that calorie-rich dessert we know we shouldn’t eat, we’re sampling Facebook’s Web and secretly savoring its deliciousness. Why does everything that’s so wrong have to feel so good?
Blast you, Facebook. Blast you.