Does having multiple friends in the virtual world help make one feel more accepted and as such provide for a healthier self-esteem? According to this piece, what is being indicated is that people with low self-esteem are using facebook as a venue to air their low sense of self in public. I guess many feel that somehow by sharing negative attitudes about themselves, people will be heard by others and their friends will respond sympathetically. Truth is, with sites like facebook, since there is so much information being shared constantly, I would surmise that people would skip anything that seems trite or unimportant. Of course, the challenge is being perceptive enough to make sure someone is not missing a true cry for help as opposed to someone just complaining about oneself. i would wonder if people agree with the findings of this post, that virtual social venues are not conducive to actually helping someone build up his/her self esteem.
ScienceDaily (Feb. 1, 2012) — In theory, the social networking website Facebook could be great for people with low self-esteem. Sharing is important for improving friendships. But in practice, people with low self-esteem seem to behave counterproductively, bombarding their friends with negative tidbits about their lives and making themselves less likeable, according to a new study which will be published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
“We had this idea that Facebook could be a really fantastic place for people to strengthen their relationships,” says Amanda Forest, a graduate student at the University of Waterloo. She cowrote the new study with her advisor, Joanne Wood. The two are generally interested in self-esteem, and how self-esteem affects the kinds of emotions people express. People with low self-esteem are often uncomfortable sharing face-to-face, but Facebook makes it possible to share remotely.
In one study, Forest and Wood asked students how they feel about Facebook. People with low self-esteem were more likely to think that Facebook provided an opportunity to connect with other people, and to perceive it as a safe place that reduces the risk of awkward social situations.
The researchers also investigated what students actually wrote on Facebook. They asked the students for their last 10 status updates, sentences like, “[Name] is lucky to have such terrific friends and is looking forward to a great day tomorrow!” and “[Name] is upset b/c her phone got stolen :@.” These are visible to their Facebook friends, the people in their network.
Each set of status updates was rated for how positive or negative it was. For each set of statements, a coder — an undergraduate Facebook user — rated how much they liked the person who wrote them.
People with low self-esteem were more negative than people with high self-esteem — and the coders liked them less. The coders were strangers, but that’s realistic, Forest says. In earlier research, Wood and Forest found that nearly half of Facebook friends are actually strangers or acquaintances, not close friends.
Forest and Wood also found that people with low self-esteem get more responses from their real Facebook friends when they post highly positive updates, compared to less positive ones. People with high self-esteem, on the other hand, get more responses when they post negative items, perhaps because these are rarer for them.
So people with low self-esteem may feel safe making personal disclosures on Facebook — but they may not be helping themselves. “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 says. But when people have a negative reaction to a post on Facebook, they seem to keep it to themselves. “On Facebook, you don’t see most of the reactions.”
FB seems to offer a way in which to connect with others in a socially secure way; that is, to be seen, but not known. I have also pondered how some postings are more about speaking absent of listening and exchanging ideas. Also I believer the “like” response is a positive validation that serves to reinforce social networking. So those who strive for some form of human connection, will they eventually change the quality of their “status updates”?
Interesting way of looking at it. I think you hit it on the head with the idea of thoughts being seen but the person not “known.” In my lecture on technology and spiritual care, I found that one of the major elements of why people choose to use virtual venues is a sense of privacy, even if baring one’s soul in a public forum. I think these kinds of elements are what drives the sense that one is not having one’s esteem reinforced through these networks.