A Psychological Perspective Part II

Facebook has been largely acknowledge as the biggest social networking site online. It’s hard to dispute the claims. But the questions is…why? Why is it the biggest, More specifically, why do people use it?

Hello everyone, and welcome to Part II. I will be using an article by Ashwini Nadkarni  and Stefan G Hofman as the main basis for these posts. In Part I, we talked about the need to belong. Part II is about need for self-presentation.

Need for Self-Presentation

FB allows users to portray a ‘fictionalized’ version of themselves. This can mean given an impression of something they’re not. This is known as ‘idealized-virtual identity hypothesis,’ which was tested by Beck et al, 2010. They researched how close FB profiles of people showed their actual selfs rather than the imagined ones. Using the ‘ten item personality inventory’ (Rammstedt & John, 2007), the authors compared observer ratings  of FB profiles. Observers were able to  ‘accurately infer the personality characteristics of the FB users in the study, suggesting that participants were expressing and communicating real personality rather than promoting idealized versions of themselves’ (Beck et al, cited Nadkarni and Hofman, 2011).

In another study by Peluchette & Karl (2010), they investigated whether undergrad profiles was determined if they posts inappropriate information. This was shown to be the case. Users felt they painted a picture of themselves as sexually appealing, wild or offensive material. Users who did not to do felt they showed a ‘clean’, hardworking image. It can be seen that posting provocative material was to ‘impress’ their peers.

But what about outside impression from other people looking into your profile? Weisbuch et al (2009) studied correspondence between interpersonal impressions made online against face-to-face. They found that people who were liked by interaction partners were also liked on account of their profiles. In addition, impressions formed from personalized profiles gave onlookers ‘assurance’ to their profile author’s likeability in real life.

Walther et al (2008) set up an experiment, in which they asked undergrads about their views on physical attractiveness, which they will then explain with the aid of a mock-up profile. Certain stimuli were designed to reflect differences in physically attractive/unattractive photos. The results showed emphasis of physical attractiveness in creating favourable views.

So an important point appears to be this physical attractiveness. Dependent on what a profile picture looked like, there would either be willingness/unwillingness to initiate further relationships with that person. In other words, people would more likely engage with others if they were attractive. ‘Physical attractiveness was most salient as a visual cue when choosing whom to befriend when other verbal or non-verbal cues were limited. In addition, both male and female subjects were more willing to initiate friendships with opposite-sex profile owners with attractive photos. Thus, physical attractiveness is one of the most elementary criteria people use when forming impressions about others both online and offline’ (Nadkarni and Hofman, 2011).

Tong et al (2008) researched relationships between the number of friends that a FB profile features, and observers’ ratings of attractiveness and extraversion. An undergrad sample were asked to view this mock-up, in which they form an impression of the profile user. ‘Results suggested a curvilinear relationship between sociometric popularity and social attractiveness, such that profile owners with lower number of friends (about 102 friends) but also greater number of friends (about 300 friends) created impressions of lower levels of social attractiveness. Thus, overabundance of friend connections produced doubts about FB users’ popularity and desirability’ (Tong, Van Der Heide, Langwell, & Walther, 2008 cited(Nadkarni and Hofman, 2011).

We can then draw some conclusions. The studies seem to suggest that FB profiles reflect users’ public image to a degree, depending on how far they want to take it. We can say this is largely influenced by the need for self-presentation. We all want to make a good account of ourselves in front of other people, and it seems this is still largely true online as it is with physical contact. Because of this, users will selectively choose certain photos, friend connections and information that fall in line with that person’s ‘imagined’ picture of themselves.


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