PROBLEM: The amount of control people have over their social media profiles, posits one psychological theory of the online persona, allows them to present a highly specific, carefully curated version of themselves to the world. On Facebook, consciously or not, we have the power to only share that which makes us look good: fun things we've been up to, or pictures we just happen to look great in, with the bad ones deleted forever. But people understand they're not usually as great as they make themselves appear online, right?
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METHODOLOGY: Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison had 159 undergrads spend five minutes either clicking through their own Facebook profile, or a stranger's. They then completed an exercise designed to measure their self-esteem, in which the researchers assessed how quick they were to associate themselves with a list of positive and negative adjectives. Immediately afterwards, they took part in what they were told was an unrelated experiment: a cognitive ability test in which they counted down from 1,978, by intervals of seven, as quickly as possible for two minutes.
RESULTS: Looking at one's own Facebook profile (instead of a stranger's) provided a significant self-esteem boost. It also led to people getting through less of the counting: although they were just as likely to provide the correct answers, people who looked at their own profiles were about 15 percent slower to to do so, getting through significantly fewer rounds of subtraction.