Negative Facebookers Have Low Self-Esteem

This makes a lot of sense in hindsight, but people whose status updates on Facebook often sound like this, probably have low self-esteem:

“Some people are just such liars!”

“The only heaven I’ll know is if my friends remember me when I die.”

“‘In a real dark night of the soul, it is always three o’clock in the morning, day after day.’ — F. Scott Fitzgerald”

“Finally getting over this cold. Maybe I’ll actually live through it.”

“People who criticize you behind your back are not your friends, they’re a waste of good air.”

It is known that people with low-self esteem are pessimists who complain more than normal, have negative views on life, are very cautious, and seek approval from others. Because of that last trait, researchers thought that maybe such people censored themselves on Facebook and tried to present a more likable image. Armed with a testable hypothesis and maybe some grant money, they obtained almost 1800 status updates from volunteers and also had them fill out a self-esteem questionnaire. Then they had another group of people rate the status messages based on how positive or negative they were. The status ratings were analyzed against their authors’ self-esteem and it turned out the lower the self-esteem, the more negative the statuses. So if they do censor themselves, they’re not doing a good job — which should come  as no surprise to people with poor self-image, since they aren’t good at anything, and are also ugly.


More interestingly, this creates a feedback loop: the people rating the negative statuses didn’t want to get to know the people writing them. Researchers even asked friends of the Debbie Downers if they liked the negative updates, to see if maybe they did just out of empathy for their friend: nope. Therefore, people with low self-esteem tend to think life sucks, which causes people to not want to hang out with them, which causes them to be lonely and think life sucks even more.

Moral of the story: if you want people’s approval, negativity should be very much the exception, not the rule. Also, no one likes you.



From Psychological Science, via NPR

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