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Facebook study: Growth fueled by desire for self-affirmation

February 07, 2013|By Jessica Guynn
  • A new study finds that one of the main reasons people turn to Facebook is to get daily affirmations of their self worth. Above, Al Franken as Stuart Smalley.
A new study finds that one of the main reasons people turn to Facebook is to… (Melissa Moseley )

SAN FRANCISCO -- If he were on Facebook, Stuart Smalley would probably update his status: "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!"

Turns out that Smalley, played by Al Franken in the "Saturday Night Live" skit, knew a thing or two about human nature. One of the main reasons people turn to Facebook? Daily affirmations of their self-worth.

That's according to a new study from University of Wisconsin-Madison professor Catalina Toma and Cornell University professor Jeffrey Hancock.

The pair are taking the lead in applying "self-affirmation theory" to social networks. They say Facebook is not just about checking out photos and updates from friends. It's about checking up on how others view you. 

Facebook is a pick-me-up that helps people feel better about themselves, especially when they feel down or have been dealt a blow to the ego, according to the study, which is slated for the March issue of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

Toma and Hancock theorize that self-affirmation is an important underlying psychological factor propelling the growth of Facebook, the world’s largest social network with more than 1 billion users.

Somewhere Smalley is smiling.

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