Putting Your Best Face Forward: Facebook and Perceptions of Popularity, Attractiveness and Self-Confidence
 
Student researchers:

Christine Kleck, Christen Reese, & Dawn Ziegerer (Graduate Students)
This paper is based on a project from the "Psychological Aspects of Communication Technology" graduate course.

Faculty Supervisor:

Dr. S. Shyam Sundar

Introduction

Facebook is an online social networking site for high school and college students and alumni of such participating universities. As relatively new technological and social phenomena, this site is gaining popularity and offers an innovative platform for research in the fields of information sciences, communication arts and sciences and social sciences.

research question

The researchers of this study attempted to apply theories surrounding uses and functions of technological modalities, social networks, recall of information and different perceptions and techniques for self presentation and appearance to Facebook.

Method

Imitation Facebook pages were constructed based on the life of either a male or female participant, each being of average appeal. Numbers of friends and the type of modality were manipulated for both the male and the female’s pages. A high, medium or low number of friends were combined with a text only, picture or video-based representation of the male or female student on the page. After viewing one of the conditions, participants completed a survey assessing information on things like the perceived popularity of the male or female, recall of information on the pages, and individual preferences of the page.

Results

You are perceived as being more popular, attractive, and self-confident when your social network includes a greater number of friends. Conversely, the modality you select to represent yourself on a Facebook page does not affect others’ perceptions of you. But, the modality you select to represent yourself on a Facebook page does have an affect on what people remember about you. A video representation can alter what and how much information people will recall about you.

Conclusions

This study found that the number of friends that you have in your Facebook social network affects other people’s perceptions of you. Future research might look at the types of candid pictures posted on the user’s site and the many ways users manage impressions. An interesting study could compare how tastes in music, movies and books (as displayed on a model Facebook user’s page) impact perceptions of attractiveness, self-confidence and popularity.

For more details regarding the study contact

Dr. S. Shyam Sundar by e-mail at sss12@psu.edu or by telephone at (814) 865-2173

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Media Effects Research Lab at College of Communications, Penn State University