Logging on to Facebook to find an explosion of comments and “likes” definitely feels good, but pile up too many virtual pats on the back and the electronic ego boost could go to your head. According to a new report from the University of Pittsburgh and Columbia Business School, getting too chummy with online acquaintances inflates self-esteem and, if you’re not careful, could lower your self-control both online—and off.
The research draws on five studies that included a total of more than 1,000 Facebook users. Findings from the first two experiments, which asked participants to rate their self-esteem as they used Facebook, suggest that the more closely you’re connected to your Facebook friends, the better you feel about yourself while browsing the site. Also, the biggest self-esteem boosts result from presenting information about yourself to those you Facebook with the most. So far, so good. Right?
Here’s where it starts to get tricky. The study found that serial social networkers can run into trouble when they let all those warm fuzzies on Facebook influence the decisions they make when it comes to things like money and food. In another experiment, participants were instructed to either browse Facebook or CNN.com. Afterwards, they were given a snack—either a granola bar or a chocolate chip cookie. Those who had browsed Facebook were more likely to pick the less healthy cookie.
In yet another experiment, volunteers completed surveys about Facebook use, height and weight, the number of credit cards they carried, and the amount of debt they had. Results showed that greater social network use was linked to higher BMI, more frequent binge eating, lower credit scores, and more credit card debt among people who had strong ties to their Facebook friends.
While the researchers don’t suggest a time limit for Facebook use, we can think of a few reasons to keep your sessions quick:
> Facebook and Twitter are just as addictive as alcohol and cigarettes.
> The more time you spend on Facebook and Twitter, the less time you spend keeping fit.
> Social networks can distort your body image.