Assignment: Social Media and Self-Esteem

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Assignment: Social Media and Self-Esteem

Assignment: Social Media and Self-Esteem


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Assignment: Social Comparison, Social Media, and Self-Esteem

Erin A. Vogel, Jason P. Rose, Lindsay R. Roberts, and Katheryn Eckles University of Toledo

Social networking sites (SNSs), such as Facebook, provide abundant social comparison opportunities. Given the widespread use of SNSs, the purpose of the present set of studies was to examine the impact of chronic and temporary exposure to social media-based social comparison information on self-esteem. Using a correlational approach, Study 1 examined whether frequent Facebook use is associated with lower trait self-esteem. Indeed, the results showed that participants who used Facebook most often had poorer trait self-esteem, and this was mediated by greater exposure to upward social comparisons on social media. Using an experimental approach, Study 2 exam- ined the impact of temporary exposure to social media profiles on state self-esteem and relative self-evaluations. The results revealed that participants’ state self-esteem and relative self-evaluations were lower when the target person’s profile contained upward comparison information (e.g., a high activity social network, healthy habits) than when the target person’s profile contained downward comparison information (e.g., a low activity social network, unhealthy habits). Results are discussed in terms of extant research and their implications for the role of social media in well-being.

Keywords: social comparison, self-esteem, social media, Internet, social networks

Social media is pervasive, especially popular social networking sites (SNSs) like Facebook, which has over a billion users around the world (Facebook, 2012). SNSs allow users to con- struct electronic profiles for themselves, provide details about their lives and experiences, post pictures, maintain relationships, plan social events, meet new people, make observations of others’ lives, fulfill belongingness needs, and express their beliefs, preferences, and emotions (Boyd & Ellison, 2007; Ivcevic & Ambady, 2012; Nadkarni & Hofmann, 2012; Tosun, 2012). Given the relevance of SNSs to a variety of social functions, we suggest that people also use SNSs (either consciously or unconsciously; Haferkamp & Kramer, 2011) as a basis for social comparative functions, such as self- evaluation (Festinger, 1954) or self-enhance-

ment (Gruder, 1971; Wills, 1981). Because SNSs offer abundant opportunities for social comparison using detailed information about others, the current research examined whether exposure to social media is associated with changes in self-evaluation (e.g., self-esteem), and whether this might be due to social com- parison processes.

Social Comparison and Social Media

Humans are thought to possess a fundamental drive to compare themselves with others, which serves a variety of functions, such as fulfilling affiliation needs (Schachter, 1959), evaluating the self (Festinger, 1954), making decisions (Camerer & Lovallo, 1999), being inspired (Lockwood & Kunda, 1997), and regulating emotions and well-being (Taylor & Brown, 1988; Tesser & Campbell, 1982). Upward so- cial comparison occurs when comparing oneself with superior others who have positive charac- teristics, whereas downward social comparison occurs when comparing oneself with inferior others who have negative characteristics (Wills, 1981; Wood, 1989). Although upward compar- ison can be beneficial when it inspires people to become more like their comparison targets (Lockwood & Kunda, 1997), it more often

This article was published Online First August 18, 2014. Erin A. Vogel, Jason P. Rose, Lindsay R. Roberts, and

Katheryn Eckles, Department of Psychology, University of Toledo.

Correspondence concerning this article should be ad- dressed to Erin A. Vogel, Department of Psychology, Uni- versity of Toledo, Mail Stop #948, 2801 Bancroft Street, Toledo, OH 43606-3390. E-mail: erin.vogel@rockets.

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