Research highlight

Psychology: To thine own self be true on Facebook

Nature Communications

October 7, 2020

Individuals who express themselves more authentically on Facebook tend to report higher levels of subjective well-being. The findings, published in Nature Communications, suggest that if users engage in self-expression on social media, there may be psychological benefits associated with being authentic.

Nearly 80% of Americans use some form of social media, and three quarters of users check their accounts on a daily basis. However, it has been suggested that trends towards self-idealization on these platforms may be detrimental to individual well-being.

By analysing data from 10,560 Facebook users collected from 2007–2012, Erica Bailey and colleagues investigated the impact of self-idealization and authenticity on well-being on social media. First, users completed a series of psychometric tests including a measure of the Big Five personality traits (an established personality model measuring traits including agreeableness and extraversion). To estimate authenticity on social media, the authors compared an individual’s self-reported personality (based on psychometric tests) to their personality on social media as predicted by a computer model based on their likes and the language used in their status updates on Facebook. They found that authentic self-expression was correlated with higher self-reported levels of Life Satisfaction — a measure of overall well-being. The effect also appeared to be consistent across different personality types.

In a separate study involving 90 participants with an average age of 23 years old, the authors found that individuals who were asked to post more authentically on social media reported higher levels of subjective well-being.

doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-18539-w

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