Research: Facebook makes your head bigger

Study claims Facebook offers another hidden free benefit: It makes you feel even better about yourself (if that's possible for millennials).

How do you feel about yourself? A little indifferent? A touch fed up with the creases on either side of your mouth? Drinking a little more than usual because the boy at the next work station got a raise and you didn't?

Please lie down here and let me make you feel better. Please pull out your iPhone. Now log on to Facebook.

There, feeling better already, huh?

This new method of curing the insecure was brought to me by the wise researchers at Cornell University. Jeffrey Hancock, associate professor of communication, and Amy Gonzales (Ph.D., 2010) decided to examine the heads of 63 privileged Cornellians to see how Facebook might make them feel.

So, according to the Cornell Chronicle, they induced them into the Cornell Social Media Lab.

Some they made sit in front of off computers. Others they made sit in front of an off computer with a mirror leaning against it, so that the clever guinea piglets could stare deeply into themselves and dislike what they saw.

Oh, no, wait, they were millennials, so they beamed at what they saw.

Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Still others, though, were asked to stare at computers upon which were displayed their Facebook profiles. They could even toggle around a little, but only in their own personal Facebook world.

Then, because they were at Cornell and were the subject of research, they were all given a test to measure just how much they loved themselves.

You will feel like licking your eyebrows when I tell you that the ones who stared at their own Facebook profiles showed a neat little uptick, greater than the others, in their self-love measurement. This was because the others showed no uptick in their self-love score at all.

Even more uplifting, perhaps, was the result that those who bothered to edit their Facebook profiles during their three minutes showed the very highest self-love scores.

Professor Hancock theorized to the Chronicle this way: "Unlike a mirror, which reminds us of who we really are and may have a negative effect on self-esteem if that image does not match with our ideal, Facebook can show a positive version of ourselves."

Here's the strange thing. Well, one of them.

Some of Professor Hancock's words seem to be slightly dented by some of Professor Hancock's research. It seems that staring at their own real-life faces did not have a negative effect on the researchees' self-esteem. It was merely that the perhaps idealized nature of Facebook seemed to make them feel, temporarily, even better than before.

I worry about another of Professor Hancock's conclusions: "For many people, there's an automatic assumption that the Internet is bad. This is one of the first studies to show that there's a psychological benefit of Facebook."

Perhaps it depends on one's definition of goodness. I am told by many who employ the fresh-faced from college that they tend to have a very healthy idea of their own worth--and even looks.

I would not dare to blame Facebook for this.

However, I am concerned that just three minutes on this free and innocent social-networking site is making millennials' heads grow beyond the size of the local ZIP code.

If this is really true, then perhaps this is the most laudable reason yet why Facebook should be banned in every office in the world.

 

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