Social networking websites like Facebook have become an important way for people to meet new friends and for businesses to assess new employees, but how similar are first impressions made on Facebook to first impressions made in face-to-face interactions?
Research conducted at Tufts University in Massachusetts suggests that people rated on likability in face-to-face interactions also tend to be rated similarly on the basis of their Facebook profile.
The study was conducted by Max Weisbuch, Zorana Ivcevic, and Nalini Ambady and was published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology in 2009.
In their study, video recordings were made of 37 college students having a face-to-face conversation with another student who was actually a research assistant.
Weisbuch and his colleagues also obtained permission to download the Facebook profiles of these 37 students.
The research assistant in the face-to-face conversations rated the likability of each student and ten additional college students were recruited to rate the likability of each Facebook profile.
The rating the student obtained from his or her face-to-face interaction tended to be similar the the rating given by those who had examined his or her Facebook profile.
Although the ratings showed a positive association, they were not entirely the same. This is probably due to the differences in the type of information provided by face-to-face conversations and Facebook profiles.
As Weisbuch and his colleagues note, “whereas impressions formed from social interaction may be based on a mix of deliberative and spontaneous behavior, impressions formed from personal webpages may be based on targets’ wholly deliberative or self-presentational behavior” and they add that, “the webpage perceiver is presented with a diversity of information in a static medium that eliminates spontaneous nonverbal behavior.”
Weisbuch, M., Ivcevic, Z. & Ambady, N. (2009). On being liked on the web and in the “real world”: consistency in first impressions across personal webpages and spontaneous behavior. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Vol 45: 573-576.