After writing a post or uploading a photo on the social networking website Facebook, do you count the number of “likes”? If so, then you are living without a sense of purpose, a study said. The study revealed that for people living with a sense of purpose, the rush of self-esteem that comes with the ubiquitous thumbs-up on social media may be limited.
“We found that having a sense of purpose allowed people to navigate virtual feedback with more rigidity and persistence. With a sense of purpose, they are not so malleable to the number of likes they receive,” said Anthony Burrow, Assistant Professor at the Cornell University at New York, in the US.
The researchers defined “sense of purpose” as the ongoing motivation that is self-directed, oriented towards the future and beneficial to others.
While it is nice to receive compliments, online or otherwise, it may not be a good thing to base one’s self-esteem on them.
“Otherwise, when one receives few likes, he or she can feel worse and the individual’s self-esteem would be contingent on what other people say and think and over time that’s not healthy,” Burrow said.
On the other hand, “purposeful people noticed the positive feedback, but did not rely on it to feel good about themselves”, Burrow added.
It is because purposeful people have the ability to see themselves in the future and act in ways that help them achieve their goals, they are able to inhibit impulsive responses to perceived rewards, such that they prefer larger downstream incentives to smaller immediate ones, explained Nicolette Rainone from the Cornell University.
For the study, the team conducted two experiments. In the first, they recruited nearly 250 active Facebook users from the US and measured their self-esteem and sense of purpose, and asked how many likes they typically got on photos they posted.
The users who reported getting more likes on average also reported greater self-esteem. But those with a high level of purpose showed no change in self-esteem, no matter how many likes they got.
In the second study, the researchers asked nearly 100 Cornell University students to take a selfie and post it to a mock social media site, “Faces of the Ivies”. The students were told that their photo had received a high, low or average number of likes.
Getting a high number of likes boosted self-esteem – but, again, only for students who had less purpose, Burrow said, in the paper appearing in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.