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Saturday
Jun012013

Checking Your Own Facebook Profile May Boost Self-Esteem

Photo Illustration by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- When you think of things to do to improve your self-esteem or self-image, you probably don't think about heading to Facebook. It might actually be the last place you think of, given that a percentage of people leave Facebook because of the negativity on the social network.

But a study out of the University of Wisconsin-Madison has found that looking at your Facebook profile for five minutes can provide a significant boost in self-esteem.

"Most have a very large audience of friends and they selectively present the best version of self, but they do so in an accurate manner," Catalina Toma, an assistant professor of communication arts at University of Wisconsin-Madison who led the study, told ABC News. "We had people look at their own profiles for five minutes and found that they experienced a boost in self-esteem in a deep, unconscious level."

Toma had a group of participants look at their Facebook profiles and then take the Implicit Association Test, which measures how fast people associate positive or negative adjectives with words such as me, my, I and myself. After studying their profile and photos, the group was more inclined to associate themselves with positive and flattering words.

Toma wanted to see if that "significant boost" in self-esteem had any impact on behavior and motivation. Participants were then asked to do a subtraction test, in which they had to subtract the number seven from a series of large numbers. Compared to the control group of those who didn't look at their Facebook profiles, the group with the Facebook-boosted self-esteem didn't try as hard to perform well on the test.

"Facebook gives you a real good image of yourself, but you then don't have to look for that in other ways," she said. "Your motivation to perform well might be reduced because you already feel really good."

Toma found something similar in a study she worked on at Cornell University, from which she earned a PhD. In that study, she and her co-author, Jeff Hancock, asked a group of undergraduates to give a speech. Afterwards a group of participants were allowed to look at their own Facebook profile. When they were given negative feedback on their speech, those participants who looked at their profile were less defensive.

Of course, Facebook isn't always going to have a positive impact on self-worth and image. A study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, found that 9 percent of the Facebook users who took a break from the social network did so because there was too much negativity on the site and it made them feel bad.

Another study, such as one from 2012 conducted by Western Illinois University, found that the exhibitionism on Facebook can negatively impact self-esteem.

A report out of the University of Gothenburg in Sweden similarly found that users who spend more time on Facebook have lower self-esteem.

Toma was clear that not all parts of Facebook can have a positive effect on self-esteem.

"People don't always understand that they, themselves put their best face forward on Facebook and so does everyone else," she said. "It seems like everyone could be having more fun than you are or a more meaningful life. Facebook is a really multifaceted and complex psychological platform."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar132013

Facebook ‘Likes’ Used to Predict Personal Information

Facebook(NEW YORK) -- New research may have you watching what you “like” online.  A study from the University of Cambridge in England says that Facebook likes can reveal a lot about your personal information.

The Cambridge study claimed to have had success in gleaning “highly sensitive personal attributes” -- such as sexual orientation, ethnicity, religious and political views, personality traits, intelligence, happiness, use of addictive substances, parental separation, age, and gender -- just from what people liked online.

The analysis surveyed over 58,000 U.S. Facebook users.  The users’ likes were figured against their “Facebook profile information… psychometric test scores, and survey information,” said the study.

“It’s very easy to click the ‘like’ button, it’s seductive,” David Stillwell, one of the study authors, told AFP.  “But you don’t realize that years later all those likes are building up against you.”

Stillwell is a psychometrics researcher who worked on the project with colleagues from Cambridge University and Microsoft Research.  The work has been published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The best results were seen when likes were used to guess automatically between what are called dichotomous variables -- cases where there are just two choices.

For instance, the researchers said, “African Americans and Caucasian Americans were correctly classified in 95 percent of cases, and males and females were correctly classified in 93 percent of cases.”  

Likewise, Christians and Muslims were correctly identified in 82 percent of cases, as were Democrats and Republicans with 85 percent accuracy.

“Sexual orientation was easier to distinguish among males (88 percent) than females (75 percent), which may suggest a wider behavioral divide (as observed from online behavior) between hetero- and homosexual males,” the report said.

This may sound like stereotyping, but the study said, “Individual traits and attributes can be predicted to a high degree of accuracy based on records of users’ Likes.”

While those who participated in the study volunteered their information and likes (an average of 170 likes per user), not all users elect to keep their pages, posts, and likes public.  However, the cautionary way in which the Cambridge study concludes may be reason enough for some to keep their information as private as possible.

“Commercial companies, governmental institutions, or even one’s Facebook friends could use software to infer attributes such as intelligence, sexual orientation, or political views that an individual may not have intended to share,” researchers said.  “One can imagine situations in which such predictions, even if incorrect, could pose a threat to an individual’s well-being, freedom, or even life.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Feb142013

Facebook Relationship Statuses Up by 200 Percent on Valentine’s Day

Joanna Stern / ABC News(NEW YORK) -- A scroll through most people's Facebook Newsfeed Thursday likely showed lots of pictures of flowers, chocolates and candies. There’s no doubt it’s Valentine’s Day. But sprinkled among those images, it's also likely there are notifications that some friends are now “in a relationship.”

According to Facebook, Valentine’s Day is the biggest day of the year for letting the Facebook world know about your relationship by adding a “relationship status” to your Timeline. Facebook says that 200 percent more relationships are added on Feb. 14, compared to any other day of the year. Also, more than 70 percent of those people who list their status on Facebook first met on Valentine’s Day.

What Facebook doesn’t have is stats about the most popular time or day to go from being “in a relationship” to “no longer in a relationship.” Virgin Mobile and OkCupid dubbed Wednesday, Feb. 13, “National Breakup Day.” They reported that 59 percent of people said that if they were going to break up with someone, they would do so just before Valentine’s Day to save money.

If that’s true, one would think many people changed their statuses Wednesday, in time for Valentine's Day, or over the last few weeks. But perhaps when it comes to declaring your love publicly on Facebook, it’s complicated.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jan092013

New Facebook App Tracks Who Gave You the Flu

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Sure you have tons of Facebook friends, but which ones are contagious?

A new app called Help, I Have the Flu scans your friends' status updates for words like "sniffles," "coughing," and, naturally, "flu" to see which of your pals may have passed along that gift that keeps on giving: the influenza virus.

The app leaves any requisite revenge plotting up to you, offering once you track down your particular Patient Zero, the choice "to have them quarantined or if you're particularly forgiving, send some help."

If you don't have the flu, the app's still useful, suggesting which friends to avoid IRL -- in real life -- until cold and flu season's over.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Oct282012

Facebook, Email More Irresistible Than Sex

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- You may want to ask your date to turn off his or her phone. A new study suggests Facebook and email trump sex in terms of sheer irresistibility.

The German study used smartphone-based surveys to probe the daily desires of 205 men and women, most of whom were college age. For one week the phones, provided by the researchers, buzzed seven times daily, alerting study subjects to take a quick survey on the type, strength and timing of their desires, as well as their ability to resist them.

While the desire for sex was stronger, the study subjects were more likely to cave into the desire to use media, including email and social networking platforms like Facebook and Twitter, according to the study.

“Media desires, such as social networking, checking emails, surfing the Web or watching television might be hard to resist in light of the constant availability, huge appeal, and apparent low costs of these activities,” said study author Wilhelm Hofmann, an assistant professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

The subjects were paid $28 at the start of the study and were eligible for extra incentives if they filled out more than 80 percent of the surveys. It’s no small wonder that more than 10,000 surveys were completed.

The urge to check social media was so strong that subjects gave in up to 42 percent of the time, according to the study published in the journal Psychological Science. One explanation is that it’s much more convenient to check email or Facebook than it is to have sex.

“The sex drive is much stronger but it’s also much more situational,” said Karen North, director of the Annenberg Program on Online Communities at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, who was not involved with the study. “We’re training ourselves to check our messages every couple minutes.”

“People are constantly looking down to check their phones,” North added. “They can’t stop.”

One drawback of this study is that it failed to address whether the subjects had sexual partners.  So while some subjects might have been single, all of them had smartphones, North said. It’s also unclear whether the findings can be generalized to the general population.

While social media can help people stay connected, Hofmann said overuse can be damaging.

“Media desires distract us from getting work done,” he said. “People underestimate how much time they consume and the distractions they produce and that can be harmful.”

The study surprised media expert Bob Larose, a professor in the department of telecommunications, information studies, and media at Michigan State University, East Lansing, Mich.

“It’s surprising that self-regulation fails so much more often for media use than for sex, alcohol or food,” said Larose, who was not involved with the study.” That speaks to the power of the instantly available, 24/7 media environment to disrupt our lives… Our failure to control media use can deplete our ability to control other aspects of our lives.”

For those who fear social media is taking over their personal or professional lives, there is hope.  North offers some tips.

“If it is interfering with social/business relationships, work, or school performance, then people should try to scale back and control or limit the behavior,” she said, describing how self-imposed “rules,” like no social media at the dinner table, can help curb the constant urge to check Facebook.

“People can use a self monitoring technique, such as charting when they use social media as a means of reducing it,” North added. “Some people find it helpful to set rewards for staying within use standards that they set for themselves.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jul192012

Facebook Makes Breaking Up Much Harder to Do

LOIC VENANCE/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Have you checked in on what your ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend is up to on Facebook before?  Well, it turns out you're not alone.

Just about everybody involved in a break-up has looked into the activities of their former significant other, according to a Master thesis written by Western University researcher Veronika Lukacs.

In her study entitled “It’s Complicated: Romantic breakups and their aftermath on Facebook,” Lukacs found that 88 percent of the respondents admitted to creeping on their exes.

But the post-relationship stalking doesn’t stop there.  Close to 75 percent say they also take a gander at the Facebook pages of their exes’ new squeezes.

This obsessive behavior apparently includes other forms of creeping, as seven in ten will use a mutual friend’s profile or log in as a mutual friend to creep on a former boyfriend or girlfriend.

Close to two-thirds acknowledge reading or analyzing old messages, while half are upset enough to delete photos of their ex from their Facebook profiles.

Just over 30 percent will post pictures to try and make their exes jealous, and a third cop to posting a song lyric or quote about their old love interest as their status.

Ultimately, only 8 percent of creepers stay friends with their exes on the social networking site.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jul162012

How Social Media Is Spurring Plastic Surgery

Courtesy Dr. Richard Ellenbogen(LOS ANGELES) -- Triana Lavey was about to undergo a radical transformation. And she was doing it for a radical reason. She wanted to look better online.

With the help of Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Dr. Richard Ellenbogen, she was changing her chin, her nose and the shape of her face.

Lavey is a 37-year-old television producer in Los Angeles. For work and socially, she spends a lot of time on Skype, Facebook and other sites. She said she didn't like the face staring back at her from her computer screen.

"I have been self-conscious about my chin, and it's all stemming from these Facebook photos," she told ABC News correspondent Cecilia Vega.

The more she saw herself online, the more she said she wanted to change.

"I think that social media has really changed so much about how we look at ourselves and judge ourselves," Lavey said. "Ten years ago, I don't think I even noticed that I had a weak chin."

Lavey tried to change the camera angle. She even untagged herself in photos she didn't like. But none of it was enough.

"Here is a weak-chin photo that I didn't untag myself in ... because I was working out really hard that summer, and I am pleased with everything else in the photo," Lavey said. "But it's my darn chin that bugs the living daylights out of me in this photo. ... You keep looking and looking, and now it's the first thing I look for in a photo. It all started with Facebook."

Surgery was the only way to fix it. Simply cutting down her social media use wasn't an option.

"That can't happen. ... Where my career is headed and the industry is headed, I have to be on social media," Lavey said.

Lavey is not alone. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, chin augmentations have increased 71 percent in the last year. Doctors confirm that more and more patients are asking for the Facebook facelift -- plastic surgery for the iPhone generation.

At Lavey's consultation, Ellenbogen showed her what her new online-ready face would look like.

Ellenbogen explained that augmenting the chin should be balanced by adjustments to the rest of the face with procedures like fat grafting -- adding a bit of fat to the face -- and rhinoplasty (a nose job).

Given that social media are supposed to make life easier, did Lavey feel she was doing something extreme?

"Plastic surgery should be a last-ditch effort," she said. "It should be after you work out, after you diet."

"I am blessed; I can afford it," she said. "I feel really lucky. I have worked my butt off, and I feel like if I can afford it, if it's something I can do to feel good and feel confident, why not? It's 2012."

The surgery Lavey got costs between $12,000 and $15,000, Ellenbogen said. Lavey is a friend, so she got a discount.

Is our eager embrace of social media creating a culture of Internet narcissism? And can't we just move the webcam to improve the angle from which it shoots us?

"It definitely is, and most people should do that," Ellenbogen said, "but there are people who have tried to do that, to make themselves more attractive, and they just need a little bit of a boost."

More than a month after her surgery, Lavey was ready to show her 692 Facebook friends her new face.

She said she felt more confident.

"It extends all the way from Skyping with people [to] having people tag me in a Facebook photo," she said. "If the camera comes out at a party ... I am fine with it. I am excited to see them. Before, I used to want to hold my chin, but now I want to show my face."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jul052012

Many Women Post Unflattering Photos of Friends on Purpose

LOIC VENANCE/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- You would probably never post an unflattering photo of yourself on Facebook, but a new survey shows many of your friends would.

A survey of 1,500 women by the website MyMemory finds 25 percent of female Facebook users admitted posting ugly pictures of their friends.

Naturally, the targeted friends can untag their name from the photo -- and 75 percent of survey respondents do -- but it’s up to the original individual to remove it completely.  The chances of that, according to the survey, are quite good.  The survey found only about one-fifth of the women surveyed said they would refuse a request to remove a photo.

Still, posting an unflattering photo of a friend could possibly ruin a friendship.  Two-thirds of survey respondents said they would be angry at a friend who posted a bad picture.

The survey also finds that the posting of bad photos, in many cases, is payback, with nearly one-third of all unflattering pictures being uploaded as an act of revenge for the same slight.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
May312012

Your Facebook Photo Is Shaped by National Culture

Two typical Facebook profile photos, one American (left), the other East Asian. Images provided by the Center for Vital Longevity/UT Dallas.(NEW YORK) -- Poke around Facebook and you’ll see your friends in all sorts of places: at the beach, at a party, at the ballpark, at home.

Our profile pictures can be very different, but two social scientists noticed some patterns.  Compared with people in, say, Taiwan, we Americans show ourselves looming larger in the frame, and smiling more broadly.

This matters, say Chih-Mao Huang of the University of Illinois and Denise Park of the University of Texas at Dallas. They’ve now published a paper in the International Journal of Psychology documenting how cultural differences show up online.

“These are not conscious choices,” Dr. Park wrote in an email to ABC News. “This represents the lens through which the two cultures view the world.  This relates, we believe, to a cultural bias to be more individualistic in the U.S. and more communal in Asia.  We believe these values fundamentally sculpt one’s thought and choices, including design of a Facebook portrait.”

Huang and Park say they did two studies of Facebook profile pictures, measuring how people in the U.S. and Taiwan chose to show themselves. They looked at more than 500 pictures in all.

For the most part, they concluded, we all do the same thing: try to put the best foot (or face) forward.  But here’s what’s different: While 12 percent of Americans posted pictures in which only their heads showed, just one Taiwanese subject (0.9 percent of the sample group) used such a close-up.  The East Asian users tended to prefer wider shots; the backgrounds mattered to them as much as that they were in them.

Similarly, Americans turn up the voltage for their shots.  Fifteen percent more Americans were categorized in the paper as smiling broadly enough that their teeth showed.

What does all this mean?  Huang and Park write of the U.S. as an “individualistic and independent” culture, while people in Taiwan “deemphasize the face and to engage more contextual field information.”  Social media -- Facebook, in this case -- make a giant lab for showing the differences.

Co-author Huang, perhaps knowing people would check, had some fun on his own Facebook page.  His profile photo shows him from the back, looking up at the psychology building at the university.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
May242012

Can Facebook Ruin Your Marriage?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- It turns out the kiss of death for marriages might be more like a poke.

A third of all divorce filings in 2011 contained the word "Facebook," according to Divorce Online. And more than 80 percent of U.S. divorce attorneys say social networking in divorce proceedings is on the rise, according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.

Divorce lawyer Marian Rosen, who practices in Houston, said she's increasingly seen social media cited in divorce proceedings and child custody battles.

"We've had instances where they pull up Facebook in the course of a deposition," Rosen told ABC News, adding that in addition to proving infidelity, she's seen cases in which children's profiles are cited as evidence to suggest bad parenting. "Once it's out there for the world, it's very difficult … to erase from the past. There are going to be trails that can be followed."

Three years ago, 20 percent of divorce filings contained the word "Facebook." By 2011, it had risen to 33 percent, according to AAML. Despite the increase, the top Facebook mentions were the same: inappropriate messages to "friends" of the opposite sex, and cruel posts or comments between separated spouses. Sometimes, Facebook friends would tattle to one partner in a relationship about bad behavior by the other.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio