Facebook reflects the real you

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Profiles on social networking site reflect reality

By Bill Hendrick
WebMD Health News

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

February 18, 2010 – The image you present to the world on Facebook is likely to reflect the real you.

This finding comes from a study by psychologists who investigated whether people fake it on Facebook and similar social networks, leaving “friends” with misleading impressions.

It turns out that people who spend time on social media sites paint themselves near mirror images of themselves instead of trying to inflate themselves to leave idealized clues about who they really are.

People present sharp images of themselves either because they “don’t try to look good or because they try and fail to be successful,” says researcher Sam Gosling, PhD, University of the Texas, in a press release.

The researchers handed out questionnaires to 236 users of college-aged social networking sites – Facebook in the US and Studi VZ and Schueler VZ in Germany. These tests revealed the volunteers’ real and idealized personality traits. The results were then correlated with the ratings of friends and observers.

The researchers claim that there was no evidence of attempts to self-idealize profiles.

This suggests that people are using online profiles to express themselves and communicate who they really are, not to create false impressions.

“Being able to express personality accurately … satisfies a basic need to be known to others,” says Gosling.

The new finding goes against a widely held assumption that people use profiles to create and project idealized thoughts about themselves – perhaps who they would like to be.

The study appears in the February issue of Psychological science.

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The references

SOURCES: Press release, Psychological science.

Press release, University of Texas.

Back, Mr. Psychological science, February 2010.

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