How others see us on social media may differ from how we see ourselves: Study

Daily News Egypt
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A new study in the open-access journal PLOS ONE on 20 December shows that people who view Facebook users’ posts may have different impressions of them than how the users see themselves.

Many people use social media platforms to express themselves and connect with others. Previous research has suggested that viewers of personal websites, such as blogs or online profiles, can form mostly accurate impressions of the authors’ personalities.

However, social media posts, such as Facebook status updates, are often isolated and lack context. Few studies have examined how users’ self-perceptions match with how others perceive them after viewing such posts.

To investigate this, Wang and colleagues asked 158 undergraduate students to answer questions about their characteristics, such as their extraversion, disclosiveness, connectedness, self-esteem, independence, and interdependence. The students also shared their last 20 Facebook status updates.

Then, two groups of other participants viewed the Facebook updates and answered questions about the users’ characteristics. One group viewed the updates in a multimedia format with text and any accompanying images or hyperlinks, and the other saw text-only versions.

The results showed that the viewers’ perceptions of Facebook users differed from users’ self-perceptions. For example, viewers tended to see users as being more disclosive, having lower self-esteem, and being less interdependent than how users perceived themselves. However, viewers’ perceptions and self-perceptions of connectedness were consistent, which may reflect that a main goal of social media posts is to connect with others.

The perceptions of the multimedia viewers were closer to the users’ self-perceptions than the perceptions of the text-only viewers. However, the multimedia viewers had more variation in their perceptions, while the text-only viewers had more agreement. Moreover, both groups’ perceptions were influenced by the users’ gender and ethnicity, which is consistent with judgments made in offline situations in previous research.

These findings reveal new insights into the dynamics of online self-presentation and impression formation. The authors note that such understanding is important for improving communication and relationships. Future work could extend this understanding by, for example, including a longer timeline of updates or exploring other platforms such as TikTok.

The authors added: “Do people get accurate impressions of us from our social media posts? Our study finds that there are significant differences between how people view Facebook users based on their status updates and how the users view themselves. Multimedia channels make the impressions more accurate, and user characteristics related to relationship-building, gender, and ethnicity are more correctly perceived.”

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