Every time you cringe, roll your eyes, and mute an annoying friend on Facebook for oversharing, you could be invalidating someone who just wants to belong.
A study, conducted by Gwendolyn Seidman of Albright College and published in Computers in Human Behavior, examines how people use Facebook to express their “true selves.” The true self is a concept first named in 2002—the idea that we possess qualities we’d like to be recognized for, but that we normally find ourselves unable to express in day-to-day life. For instance, someone with a pathological inability to express simple human kindnesses to others might still want to be thought of as a nice guy. Just an example.
Perhaps he finds it easier to be nice to people online, though. Previous research shows that some people feel more comfortable expressing their true selves online, and that those people tend to be the ones who make close Internet friends.
On many corners of the Internet—comment sections, forums, even Tumblr and Twitter to some degree—interactions take place mostly with strangers. Facebook, on the other hand, is primarily for people you already know. An earlier study, on which Seidman was also a co-author, found that when people express their true selves to their “real life” friends online, in email or instant messaging, it can strengthen the relationship. But that study didn’t look at social networks, which are less personal, more public, and so have different dynamics.