Profiles on the Social Networking Site Reflect Reality
By Bill Hendrick
WebMD Health News
Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD
Feb. 18, 2010 -- The image you present to the world on Facebook is likely to reflect the real you.
This finding is from a study by psychologists who sought to learn whether people fake it on Facebook and similar social networks, leaving "friends" with misleading impressions.
It turns out that people who spend time on social networking sites paint near-mirror images of themselves instead of trying to pump themselves up to leave idealized clues about who they really are.
People present accurate images of themselves either because they "aren't trying to look good, or because they are trying and failing to pull it off," study researcher Sam Gosling, PhD, of the University of Texas, says in a news release.
The researchers gave questionnaires to 236 college-age users of social networking sites -- Facebook in the U.S. and Studi VZ and Schueler VZ in Germany. These tests revealed the volunteers' actual and idealized personality traits. The results were then correlated with ratings by friends and observers.
Researchers say there was no evidence of attempts to self-idealize profiles.
This suggests that people use online profiles to express themselves and to communicate who they really are, and not to create false impressions.
"Being able to express personality accurately ... satisfies a basic need to be known by others," Gosling says.
The new finding goes against a widely held assumption that people use profiles to create and project idealized thoughts about themselves -- perhaps who they'd like to be.
The study appears in the February issue of Psychological Science.
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News release, University of Texas.
Back, M. Psychological Science, February 2010.
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