Facebook addiction linked to staking your self-worth on social acceptance

More than one billion people use Facebook to connect with others and maintain social relationships. But new research suggests that the social networking website can have an addictive side for some.

A study published in Computers in Human Behavior found that people who believed they needed to be socially accepted in order to have worth as a person were at higher risk of using Facebook in compulsive and maladaptive way.

Previous research has examined the relationship between self-esteem and Facebook use. The researchers from Baruch Ivcher School of Psychology sought to expand on the prior work by examining contingencies of self-worth, meaning the contingencies which are viewed as primary sources of self-esteem.

These contingencies are social acceptance, physical appearance, outdoing others in competition, academic competence, family love and support, being a virtuous or moral person, and God’s love. For those who view social acceptance as an important contingency, feelings of self-worth depend on the approval of others.

An initial survey of 337 participants with an active Facebook account found that social acceptance contingencies were positively related to Facebook addiction symptoms.

In other words, people who agreed with statements such as “My self-esteem depends on the opinions others hold of me” tended to also agree with statements such as “I spend a lot of time thinking about Facebook”, “I am using Facebook in order to forget my personal problems”, and “I use Facebook so much that it has had a negative impact on my job or studies.”

The researchers also conducted a 3-week daily diary study with 80 undergraduate psychology students, which found that levels of Facebook addiction tended to increase on days when levels of social acceptance contingencies were higher.

“An individual who bases his or her self-worth on being socially accepted is likely to adopt the goal of forming and maintaining social ties and, therefore, may be more intensely affected by the threat or loss of such relationships,” the researchers explained in their study. “Because such individuals strive to boost self-esteem and to avoid others’ rejection, can sometimes lead to maladaptive self-regulation, such as obsessive or addictive Facebook use.”

In both studies, social acceptance contingencies predicted Facebook addiction over and above global self-esteem levels. The researchers also controlled for the potentially confounding effects of personality traits.

But the study — like all research — has some limitations. It is unclear whether the relationship between social acceptance contingencies and Facebook addiction can be generalized to other social media platforms, like Instagram or Twitter.

The study, “Contingent self-worth and Facebook addiction“, was authored by Yaniv Kanat-Maymon, Lian Almog, Rinat Cohen, and Yair Amichai-Hamburger.