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Psychol Sci. 2012 Mar;23(3):295-302. doi: 10.1177/0956797611429709. Epub 2012 Feb 7.

When social networking is not working: individuals with low self-esteem recognize but do not reap the benefits of self-disclosure on Facebook.

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University of Waterloo, Canada.


The popular media have publicized the idea that social networking Web sites (e.g., Facebook) may enrich the interpersonal lives of people who struggle to make social connections. The opportunity that such sites provide for self-disclosure-a necessary component in the development of intimacy--could be especially beneficial for people with low self-esteem, who are normally hesitant to self-disclose and who have difficulty maintaining satisfying relationships. We suspected that posting on Facebook would reduce the perceived riskiness of self-disclosure, thus encouraging people with low self-esteem to express themselves more openly. In three studies, we examined whether such individuals see Facebook as a safe and appealing medium for self-disclosure, and whether their actual Facebook posts enabled them to reap social rewards. We found that although people with low self-esteem considered Facebook an appealing venue for self-disclosure, the low positivity and high negativity of their disclosures elicited undesirable responses from other people.

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