BRIGHTON, England — Some people turn to psychotherapy, some people turn to retail therapy, and some people turn to Facebook therapy. When it comes to feeling down, however, a new preliminary study finds that looking to Facebook for a mental boost by accumulating “likes” from friends doesn’t actually make people feel good or have any positive impact on one’s self-esteem.
Researchers at the University of South Wales recruited 340 social media users to complete personality questionnaires. The surveys asked participants to evaluate 25 statements that described one’s feelings about themselves or others from using social media and acknowledge how strongly they agreed or disagreed.
Statements included sentiments such as, “The attention I get from social media makes me feel good,” or “I consider someone popular based on the amount of likes they get.”
The researchers found that when people received the likes they so desperately searched for, they didn’t actually feel any better or view themselves in any more positive of a light.
The authors also note that those who specifically log onto social media sites soliciting likes from others — whether simply asking a friend to like a photo or actually buying likes online — “were more likely to have low self-esteem and be less trusting.”
Social media users who admitted to deleting posts or changing their profile photo to a new one because it received a high number of likes were also found to suffer from similar confidence issues.
“The proliferation of social media use has led to general concerns about the effects on our mental health,” says Dr. Martin Graff, head of research in psychology at the university, in a press release. “Although this is just a relatively small scale study the results indicate that the ways we interact with social media can affect how we feel and not always positively.”
The findings are being presented Wednesday at the British Psychological Society’s Annual Conference in Brighton.