As one of the most popular websites in the world, and as — according to Statista — the leading global social network, Facebook may have changed the way we maintain social relationships. An issue of contention, however, remains.
Relatively little is known about how heavy Facebook usage, and potential addiction, affects the human brain.
While previous research, as summarized by the Telegraph, has indicated that Facebook addiction activates the same part of the brain as cocaine, a new study sheds light on the link between self-worth and Facebook use.
Titled, “Contingent self-worth and Facebook addiction,” and published in the peer-reviewed journal Computers in Human Behavior, this study was conducted to examine the “dark side” of Facebook.
The paper was authored by Yaniv Kanat-Maymon, Lian Almog, Rinat Cohen, and Yair Amichai-Hamburger from the Baruch Ivcher School of Psychology. The study expands prior work on the contingencies of self-worth — namely competition, approval from others, virtue, academic competence, appearance, family support, and God’s love — which are considered to be the primary sources of self-esteem according to Ohio State University.
For the study, the Baruch Ivcher School of Psychology recruited 337 participants with active Facebook accounts. In the first controlled experiment, all participants took an online survey. Social acceptance contingencies were linked to Facebook addiction symptoms.
“Results indicated that contingent self-worth (CSW) in the domain of others’ approval was positively linked with Facebook addiction and excessive usage time. These results were unique to CSW over and above global self-esteem and the big five personality traits.”
In the second controlled experiment, 80 study participants (undergraduate psychology students) provided reports on changes in self-esteem, and Facebook use for three weeks. Results indicated that individuals who base their self-worth on social acceptance are more prone than average to engage in compulsive, maladaptive Facebook use.
“Multilevel modeling indicated that daily fluctuations in social acceptance CSW positively predicted day-to-day changes in Facebook addiction… this finding was unique to CSW over and above daily changes in global self-esteem. “
According to the authors of the research paper in question, the results of both studies clearly indicate that contingent self-worth plays a key role in the development of Facebook addiction.
However, it also plays a key role in sustaining the addiction.
Like all studies, Baruch Ivcher School of Psychology’s study has some limitations. Contradicting the findings of this paper and other similar academic observations, researchers Andrew K. Przybylski and Netta Weinstein found that the potentially deleterious effects of social media use have not been adequately studied.
In a paper published in Psychological Science, Przybylski and Weinstein wrote that moderate use of digital technology is not inherently harmful, adding that investigations into the links between social media use, addiction, and health need to be more rigorously conducted before any definitive conclusions can be drawn.