Many things that are bad for you in large quantities can be good in moderation.
And while Facebook was recently found to make heavy users more neurotic, a new study has revealed that in limited doses it actually boosts self-esteem.
It's probably because Facebook allows people to put their best face forward, says Jeffrey Hancock, associate professor of communication at Cornell University. Very few people, after all, choose to post the details of how badly they behaved last night.
And feedback from friends posted publicly on Facebook profiles also tends to be overwhelmingly positive, Hancock points out.
"Unlike a mirror, which reminds us of who we really are and may have a negative effect on self-esteem if that image does match with our ideal, Facebook can show a positive version of ourselves," Hancock says. "We’re not saying that it’s a deceptive version of self, but it’s a positive one."
For the study, 63 Cornell students were left alone, seated at computers that either showed their Facebook profiles or were turned off. Some of the off computers had a mirror propped against the screen.
Those on Facebook were allowed to spend three minutes on their own profiles and associated tabs. All three groups were then given a questionnaire designed to measure their self-esteem.
While those who had looked in a mirror or at a blank screen showed no increase in self-esteem, those who had used Facebook gave much more positive feedback about themselves. Those who'd edited their Facebook profiles during the exercise (showing off about the experiment, perhaps?) were most pleased with themselves.
"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," Hancock said.