We look for a lot of things in our potential mates. Good genes, a good sense of humor, a decent job, and according to a new study from the University of Missouri, a positive string of Facebook comments.
“Opinions of other people matter more than the target person’s own self-presentation,” says Seoyeon Hong, a doctoral candidate in journalism at the University of Missouri. “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.”
Hong and associate professor Kevin Wise showed profile pictures to subjects along with the comments posted on each profile’s Facebook wall and photographs.
The study, “The Real You? The Role of Visual Cues and Comment Congruence in Perceptions of Social Attractiveness from Facebook Profiles,” appears in the publication’s July 2012 edition of the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking. Hong and Wise showed a correlation between positive Facebook comments and a positive overall opinion of a profile’s social attractiveness.
“People tend to rely more on other-generated information than self-generated information when forming impressions,” Hong said.
The study shows that during their first views of a new friend’s Facebook page, people tend to look at comments and ascribe serious value to what they read. The phenomenon is not limited to members of the opposite sex. Employers and friends use similar techniques to make decisions about a person’s desirability.
Hong and Wise also found that active pictures showing people performing on instruments or playing sports generate a better response than inactive photographs such as simple head shots. Hong recommends choosing profile pictures carefully and closely monitoring Facebook comments to present the best possible public image.
“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,” Hong said. “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.”
Hong recommends deleting negative comments, even if those comments obviously aren’t serious. Sarcasm sometimes fails to get across in written text, and the study shows that viewers judge negative comments similarly regardless of their apparent intentions.
“To maximize the effects of positive self-presentation on Facebook,” Hong says, “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.”