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Jaime Raith
April 29, 2014
Social Psychology
Writing Assignment #2

Social Media and The Self

Computer use has increased dramatically with new Internet blogs, games,
networks, and other various interfaces. Every individual utilizes the Internet for his or
her own individual needs and pleasures. In todays society it is rare to find an individual
that does no have some presence online. Some individuals depend on their online
presence. Does this mean that we rely on the Internet to fulfill basic needs? If so, does
our Internet use impact who we are, how we act, and how we think of our world and
ourselves? There have been several studies asking questions of how the Internet,
especially social media and web boards, are affecting human behavior and our sense of
self. This topic is researched because social media and other Internet sites are becoming
a larger part of our everyday life. This poses an undeniable question of how this type of
interaction is affecting the individual today and how individuals maintain and encourage
this new force in our social world. Does the Internet help the individuals self or hurt an
individuals perception of the self?
One article that examines this question of the individual and Internet use is a
study by Correa, Hinsley, and Zuniga that focuses on how a persons personality is
portrayed through social media use. The research question they asked was: is there a
relationship between personality and social media use and does it differ by gender? The
data-collection methods included an online survey of 1,482 American adults. The survey
asked about social media use, personality traits, life satisfaction and socio-demographics.
One of the key findings of the study was that women were more likely to be open and
more extraverted online than men. Mens emotional stability was unrelated to social
media use. Women found social media helpful to portray their open, extraverted selves.
The findings for all factors in the study suggested that extraversion, emotional stability,
and openness all matter in an individuals use of social media. For example, extraversion
was a trait of social media users, people who were considered emotionally stable used
social media less, and people who are open to meeting new people and doing new things
utilized social media the most. The study also suggested that people who used social
media tended to be more innovative and creative because of their pre-existing personality
traits made them more likely to use social media. This study demonstrated that the
Internet does not necessarily impact the self, but the existing self impacts the use of the
A scholarly article by Steinfield, Ellison, and Lampe focused more on self-esteem
to understand social networking sites impact on the individual. The research question
investigated the relationship between Facebook use and social capital accumulation over
time. Further, self-esteem was looked at as a factor to how Facebook is used to
accumulate social capital. The main research question was how does an individuals
psychological well-being influence the relationship between social capital and social
network site use (2008)? The data-collection methods used were two surveys filled out
by students at a large university. The surveys were conducted a year apart to account for
social capital and Facebook use over time. In-depth interviews were also used for a small
number of students in the study.
The key findings of Steinfield, Ellison, and Lampe were that self-esteem, social
capital, and uses of Facebook were all related. Facebook can be used as a positive tool to
accumulate social capital. This tool for social capital was especially useful for students
due to the large changes happening in their lives. Further, students who may have ben
too shy or had low self-esteem were able to use Facebook to their advantage. Steinfield,
Ellison, and Lampe state the way in which Facebook might facilitate communication,
especially in initial social interactions, and perhaps mitigate fears of rejection may further
explain why lower self-esteem students appear to gain more from their use of Facebook
than higher self- esteem students (2008). Overall, greater Facebook use meant bridging
more gaps in social capital, keeping up more relationships. These relationships, or social
capital, influence self-esteem. More social capital from Facebook meant self-esteem
would rise. From this study, Facebook use is seen as a positive influence on peoples
relationships, which then impacts the self from increased self-esteem.
Lastly, Amiel and Sargant focus on individual motives for using the Internet and
why these different motives matter. The research question asked was do personality
types serve as useful discriminators of Internet use (2004)? It was hypothesized that
extraverts will be more likely to use the Internet to assist them in their social endeavors
rather than replace actual social interaction. Neurotics tend to have high anxiety and
reject social interaction. Neurotics were expected to use the Internet more as a substitute
for social activities. Lastly, psychotics, who are seen as deviants, were expected to use
the Internet for identity control and utilize the anonymity the Internet provides. The data-
collection methods were a personality questionnaire and an Internet motives
questionnaire that included four categories: communication utility, entertainment utility,
information utility, and convenience. The 211 participants were all college students. The
findings supported the hypotheses. Extraverts did not substitute the Internet for human
interaction. The extravert used the Internet primarily to voice opinions. Psychotics did
not use the Internet for entertainment or fun purposes, but instead for deviant purposes.
Neurotics turned to the Internet when they were lonely. Amiel and Sargant state, taken
together, the results clearly suggest a pattern of differences between each personality type
and Internet usage and usage motives (2004). The results of this study demonstrated
correspond to Correa, Hinsley, and Zunigas study that who you are determines how you
use the Internet. From Amiel and Sargant, the self can be thought of as a motive towards
specific Internet use. Further, the Internet helps solidify and portray a persons true self
by what they choose to do with their Internet access.
These three scholarly articles allude to the idea that the Internet is helping solidify
how we think of ourselves and how our sense of self fits in the social world. Broadly,
social media is reinforcing the self that we already are. In some cases the Internet can
yield positive changes for the self. In other cases, the Internet furthers a negative self or
enhances an individuals traits. How we use the Internet is what needs to be focused on
to utilize the Internet to better understand who we are. The Internet is what we make it
according to these studies. Thus, a persons sense of self can be accurately portrayed
through the Internet if we understand our motives and others Internet usage based on their
These studies helped me better understand my social-psychological question of
how the Internet impacts the self by demonstrating that the Internet may actually have
less of an impact on the self than I thought. Instead, these studies demonstrated that the
self impacts how people use the Internet, not the other way around. My preconceptions
of the Internets impact on the self were that access to information is good, but over use
of social media would have negative side effects on ones perception of their self. These
articles challenged this by stating that a persons personality would determine whether or
not they used social media and also whether or not social media impacted their emotional
stability. Actual use of the Internet did not seem to be the main force in a persons self-
esteem. The articles suggested that if a persons personality were introverted the persons
sense of self, their shyness, would stay the same whether or not they used the Internet.
The exception was Steinfield, Ellison, and Lampe who argued that low self-esteem could
be increased by accumulating social capital over Facebook. Overall, this research
challenged my initial thoughts on the relationship between the self and the Internet. The
Internet is a way to take on a role or listen to motives that confirms a persons true self.

Works Cited

Amiel, Tel, and Stephanie Lee Sargent. "Individual differences in Internet usage
motives." Computers in Human Behavior 20.6 (2004): 711-726.

Correa, Teresa, Amber Willard Hinsley, and Homero Gil De Zuniga. "Who interacts on
the Web?: The intersection of users personality and social media use." Computers in
Human Behavior 26.2 (2010): 247-253.

Steinfield, Charles, Nicole B. Ellison, and Cliff Lampe. "Social capital, self-esteem, and
use of online social network sites: A longitudinal analysis." Journal of Applied
Developmental Psychology 29.6 (2008): 434-445.