Online ‘likes’ on social networks linked to self esteem – yet watch out if you crave them


Seeking likes can mean you have low self esteem. File photo

That’s what psychologists have discovered after carrying out research into the social media habits of hundreds of people aged between 18 and 78. People who suffer with low self esteem are more likely to spend time online searching for ‘likes’ – but those who are confident, sociable and outgoing don’t care.

The subjects used up to 10 social media sites – 90% using up to five – and most of them posted up to five times each day.

They were asked 25 questions about how people appreciate being ‘liked’ on sites like Facebook , Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter, and the researchers discovered that those who spend a lot of time online and crave ‘likes’ have low self-esteem.

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They also lack openness, trust, warmth, honesty and a conscience. The researchers at the University of South Wales (USW) found that they are negative about new experiences and lack imagination, will post things they don’t believe in and will even accept friend requests from people they don’t know.

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They also found that people who spend less time on social media don’t care about ‘likes’, have higher levels of self-esteem and are sociable and outgoing.

They are also positive about themselves online, and have confidence in their own abilities, are emotionally stable and content.

USW professor Dr Martin Graff, an expert in the psychology of social media and Head of Research in USW’s School of Psychology, said: “We asked those taking part in the study to answer 25 questions, focusing on their views on how people appreciate being popular on social media.

“From this, we were able to come up with six different groups, ranging from those who put effort into in social media – who craved, and even paid, for likes – the ones who wanted social media ‘likes’ to make them feel good, and people who took action to get likes or deleted posts that got no reaction.

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“Others were categorised as ‘blind’ – they accepted friend requests from strangers and often posted things they didn’t believe so as to get a positive reaction – and there were those who always posted positive things, often about themselves.

“The final group were categorised as ‘honest’ and didn’t care about how they were viewed.”

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The study has given the USW researchers a new insight into the way online interactions mirror people’s everyday personalities.

“Although the study is at its very early stages and only takes into account the views of a small group – it does give us some understanding of how people’s real-world personalities influence their actions online,” Dr Graff said.

“It indicates that the way we act while interacting on social media is to some extent linked to our personalities and our perception of our own self-esteem.”