THURSDAY, Dec. 26, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- If you spend much
time on Facebook untagging yourself in unflattering photos and
embarrassing posts, you're not alone.
A new study, however, finds that some people take those awkward
online moments harder than others.
In an online survey of 165 Facebook users, researchers found
that nearly all of them could describe a Facebook experience in the
past six months that made them feel awkward, embarrassed or
uncomfortable. But some people had stronger emotional reactions to
the experience, the survey found.
Not surprisingly, Facebook users who put a lot of stock in
socially appropriate behavior or self-image were more likely to be
mortified by certain posts their friends made, such as a photo
where they're clearly drunk or one where they're perfectly sober
but looking less than attractive.
"If you're someone who's more self-conscious offline, it makes sense that you would be online too," said Dr. Megan Moreno, of Seattle Children's Hospital and the University of Washington.
Moreno, who was not involved in the research, studies young
people's use of social media.
"There was a time when people thought of the Internet as a place you go to be someone else," Moreno said. "But now it's become a place that's an extension of your real life."
And social sites like Facebook and Twitter have made it trickier
for people to keep the traditional boundaries between different
areas of their lives, Moreno said. In offline life, she said,
people generally have different "masks" that they show to different
people -- one for your close friends, another for your mom and yet
another for your coworkers.
On Facebook -- where your mom, your best friend and your boss
are all among your 700 "friends" -- "those masks are blown apart,"
Indeed, people who use social-networking sites have handed over
some of their self-presentation control to other people, said study
co-author Jeremy Birnholtz, director of the Social Media Lab at
But the degree to which that bothers you seems to depend on who
you are and who your Facebook friends are, he said.
For the study, Birnholtz's team used flyers and online ads to
recruit 165 Facebook users -- mainly young adults -- for an online
survey. Of those respondents, 150 said they'd had an embarrassing
or awkward Facebook experience in the past six months.
Some examples: The young woman who was tagged in a picture in
which she was picking food from her teeth; the 20-year-old who
skipped a mandatory meeting to go to a concert, then was caught
because a friend tagged her in a post; the young man who was tagged
in a picture at a party where he was obviously drunk.
But the level of distress these Facebook users felt depended
partly on whether they were self-conscious types in general.
It also depended on the diversity of their Facebook network,
Birnholtz said. If your network includes relatives and professional
acquaintances, that image of your public drunkenness might not be
so funny, he said.
On the other hand, people who reported more sophisticated
Facebook skills were less bothered by awkward posts. These more
savvy users, Birnholtz said, know how to untag themselves in posts
or change their privacy settings so friends of friends, for
example, cannot see what other users post on their timeline.
Birnholtz said the survey offered some Facebook lessons. "Be
cautious about who you friend, and know what your privacy settings
are," he said.
And for those who post a lot, Birnholtz suggested taking a
moment to consider what you're sharing. "When you post something,
try to imagine who will see it," he said. "Take that pause and
remember that another person's colleagues might see it. Their
family might see it."
Birnholtz said Facebook itself could help too -- for example, by
creating pop-ups that give people an idea of the potential
visibility of their posts.
For now, Moreno agreed that honing your Facebook skills --
especially when it comes to privacy settings -- is a wise move.
And, she said, everyone should try to think before they post,
although it can be hard to know what will offend or upset.
"We're all trying to figure out what Facebook etiquette is," Moreno said.
Moreno added, though, that Facebook should not be singled out
among social-networking sites. "In the past couple years, we're
seeing some really embarrassing stuff on Twitter," she said.
The findings are scheduled to be presented in February at the
ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work and Social
Computing, in Baltimore. Research presented at meetings should be
viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed
The American Academy of Pediatrics has more on young people's
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Copyright © EBSCO Publishing. All rights reserved.