Study Suggests The Self-Esteem Hit From Facebook Doesn’t Make Us Perform Tasks Any Better

facebook-cat-imageThere’s consistently lots of chatter about the self-esteem hit some of us get from a few well-placed Facebook status updates or well-timed photo releases. A few hundred likes on your newborn’s first baby pic and you’re hit with the vanity plague. But research suggests that that boost we get doesn’t exactly translate to stellar test performance. After using that buzz from a positive Facebook experience to do precisely nothing productive, you probably knew that already.

NBC news reports that there “may be a downside to those positive feelings” you experience from Facebook, according to some new research:

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, measured Facebook users’ self-esteem after they looked at their own profiles. The researchers used an implicit association test, in which participants had to associate positive or negative adjectives with self-centered words like “me,” “my,” “I” and “myself.”

“If you have high self-esteem, then you can very quickly associate words related to yourself with positive evaluations but have a difficult time associating words related to yourself with negative evaluations,” study researcher Catalina Toma explained in a statement. “But if you have low self-esteem, the opposite is true.” 

Particpants reportedly had “a significant boost in self-esteem” after taking a peek at their own Facebook page for even a mere five minutes. But when given a “math task,” that self-esteem did not help the subjects perform any better than those who did not do any personal Facebook checks. In fact, the former group did worse, answering fewer questions but with an “unchanged” error rate.

Toma explains this conclusion with the following theory:

“Performing well in a task can boost feelings of self-worth,” Toma said in a statement. “However, if you already feel good about yourself because you looked at your Facebook profile, there is no psychological need to increase your self-worth by doing well in a laboratory task.”

Obviously, this one study doesn’t necessarily mean that we need to be banning children from perusing their Facebooks on their fancy smartphones mere moments before exams. Toma also adds that her research shouldn’t be used as part of the blame game for why college kids fail to learn anything in college these days.

Bottom line? More research is needed on why Facebook is like self-esteem steroids.


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