Comments left on Facebook profile pictures “strongly affect the level of perceived attractiveness of the profile owner physically, socially, and professionally,” according to a recent study by researchers at the University of Missouri.
The study also found that Facebook users with profile photos that include social cues, additional information, and positive comments are viewed as much more socially and physically attractive than users with fewer social cues and negative comments.
Doctoral student Seoyeon Hong conducted the research, along with University of Missouri School of Journalism Associate Prof. Kevin Wise and other doctoral students. Here is how Hong proceeded, according to a press release from the university:
For the study, Hong showed different Facebook profile pictures of the same person to more than 100 college students. Each picture varied in social cues and the quality of comments. Profile photos with social cues are photos of the profile user that include additional information about who they are and what they do. For example, a photo with a social cue of an athlete would be a picture of that person playing sports. Likewise, a social cue for a musician may be a photo of that person playing an instrument. Hong and Wise found that people with Facebook profile photos that include social cues were perceived to be more physically and socially attractive than people with profile photos that were plain headshots.
People tend to rely more on other-generated information than self-generated information when forming impressions. In other words, opinions of other people matter more than the target person’s own self-presentation. Thus, for social networking users concerned about forming a desired impression, being aware of other-generated information about oneself is paramount in the goal of achieving a positive self-presentation.
These findings show how important it is to present yourself strategically on Facebook. If you want to be perceived positively by people who view your profile page, including friends and potential employers, it is important to include profile pictures with positive social cues. No matter what the profile owner does to tailor their Facebook page, comments left on their page from other users should be monitored, as well. Positive comments are very helpful, but negative remarks can be very damaging, even if they are silly or sarcastic. To maximize the effects of positive self-presentation on Facebook, I would recommend using profile pictures with extensive social cues to show who and what you are in a positive way, while also keeping track of what others say about you.
Readers: Where would your profile picture fit in with Hong’s research?
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