Though some may scoff at the idea of Facebook addiction, it’s a real condition that can cause serious negative impacts in people’s lives. And a recent study has found that people who measure their self-worth based on others’ opinions of them may be more susceptible to Facebook addiction.
In short: if you only think you’re a good person if you get 100 likes on your status update, you’re more likely to be sucked into constantly checking the site.
Facebook addiction is generally considered a subtype of internet addiction, and while it may seem like we’re all addicted to the internet to some degree, researchers define Facebook addiction as affecting “individuals who excessively socially network through Facebook, with detrimental effects on their lives.” Those negative impacts range from anxiety and depression ro relationship dissatisfaction and worsening academic or professional performance.
For a while, scientists believed that Facebook addiction was tied to low self-esteem, but psychologists at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, a research college in Israel, wanted to dig a little deeper. They had a hunch that people who are more likely to become addicted to Facebook tend to measure their self-worth based on the acceptance of others, regardless of how high or low their self esteem currently is. Their hunch was right, according to the resulting study, which was published in July in the journal Computers in Human Behavior.
“As expected, individuals with higher levels of social acceptance contingent self-worth reported higher levels of Facebook addiction and higher levels of Facebook usage time,” the study authors wrote. “The results indicate that over and above individuals' personality traits and global self-esteem, those with higher levels of social acceptance contingent self-worth show higher levels of Facebook addiction and spend more time using Facebook.”
To test the theory, the researchers had 337 Facebook users complete a number of surveys that measured how much they weighed their self-worth based on social acceptance, how much they used Facebook, how they used it, as well as their self-esteem and the “big five” personality traits (extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness to experience). They then plotted out all of the responses to see if there was any correlation and found that, while self esteem does play a role, whether or not a person bases their self-worth on social acceptance is a much stronger predictor of a risk of Facebook addiction.
The study authors made sure to note that since it’s a small study, there’s no way to confirm that basing your self-worth on social acceptance makes you more likely to become addicted to Facebook, but the correlation between the two traits is worth further exploration, and may help us better understand ways to help all kinds of people have a more healthy relationship with social media.
Listen to our podcast about the world’s greatest mysteries that were solved by science.