Social networking the new self-therapy

By Dylan Bushell-Embling
Thursday, 23 January, 2014

Social networking the new self-therapy

Posting on social network sites can act as a form of self-therapy, allowing people to understand and improve themselves, a new Australian study argues.

The research from Dr Theresa Sauter of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation (CCI) at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) shows that social networks can act as both the town square and the confessionals of the 21st century.

“Social networking sites invite people constantly to share their thoughts and actions with others, confess their wrongdoings and highlight their achievements,” Sauter said.

“It’s like keeping a diary, but it’s more public, frequent and up to date. For users, it can become a therapeutic tool that helps them to discover how they feel and how they can improve themselves.”

When social networking users publicly admit their transgressions, they are showing awareness that they have deviated from good, ethical behaviour, Sauter said.

“For instance, users might post about not doing their tax returns or buying unhealthy food, and ask their friends if they were bad. They’re confessing that they haven’t lived up to the norms and standards they set for themselves.”

Social networking is thus encouraging users to reflect more frequently on their behaviour and personalities, but this is not a conscious practice, Sauter said. “It is a by-product of using Facebook regularly. While public self-writing was previously limited to an intellectual elite, social media technology now makes it accessible for everyone.”

The opinion that social networking is an outlet for narcissistic bravado is thus unfounded, she said.

“People can use these sites to work on themselves. It doesn’t mean they create new personalities on Facebook, but rather that they understand and keep reshaping their own identity through self-writing.”

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