Embarrassing Facebook Posts may Create Problems for Others: Study

First Posted: Dec 09, 2013 11:18 PM EST

Facebook and other social media can provide both a fun and exciting world for individuals to connect through. However, a recent study looks at the awkwardness, embarrassment and even anguish that can come with the interactive website.

“Almost every participant in the study could describe something that happened on facebook in the past six months that was embarrassing or made them feel awkward or uncomfortable,” said Jeremy Birnholtz, one of the authors of the paper, via a press release. “We were interested in the strength of the emotional response to this type of encounter.”

Those most concerned with social appropriateness had a diverse network of friends on Facebook that allowed access to co-workers, clients and friends on Facebook, and may be more likely to experience a “face threat,” according to the study. People who may have felt they had a high level of Facebook skills reported experiencing kinds of threats less severely.

“Perhaps people with more Facebook experience, who know how to control settings, delete pictures and comments and untag, they knew how to deal with these encounters or at least try to deal with them,” Birnholtz said, via the release. Birnholtz is also an assistant professor in the department of communication studies at Northwestern and director of the Social Media Lab at Northwestern.

Findings showed that those with a high level of general Internet skills may understand the importance of online reputations.

For the study, researchers recruited Facebook users through university websites and Craigslist. Only 15 of the 165 people surveyed had not experienced some kind of face threat in the past six months, Participants were asked to describe a recent uncomfortable Facebook experience and rate the severity of the threat on a scale of one to five, with information regarding their personality type, Internet and Facebook skills, size and diversity network.

Researchers found examples of norm violations, ideal self-presentation violations, association effects and aggregate affects, among others.

"People can make bad decisions when posting to your Facebook because they don’t have a good idea of your privacy settings and which friends of yours might see this content,” Birnholtz said. “Facebook doesn’t provide a lot of cues as to how friends want to present themselves to their audience." Researchers hope that with future research, they can focus on specific actions to resolve face-threatening acts.

More information regarding the study can be found via here.

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