The Internet has been a part of our lives for about two decades and online communication -for example e-mail; instant messaging; chat rooms; blogging; online dating sites and social networking sites (SNS) continues to rapidly evolve. Surrounded by the variety of online communication tools now available, social networking sites (such as Facebook) are one of the more recent tools which provide a rich source of potential research for social scientists. People today do not only use the Internet more to interact to other people, but also to socialize, generate some lasting relationships and even develop a “real” social virtual life (Nabeth, 2005).
‘‘Individuals’ beliefs about themselves influence how they act in particular situations, the goals they pursue in life, how they feel about life events and relationship partners, and the ways in which they cope with and adapt to new environments’’ (Robins et al., 2001, p. 465). Subsequently, self-esteem may also influence engagement in a new environment such as Facebook (Zywica & Danowski, 2008). According to Ellison, Gibbs & Heino (2006) the “digital identity” represents how a person is perceived in the online environment and it has a direct impact in enabling or preventing social interactions as well as the types of interaction. Identity (real or fake) is formed and moulded as the person unveils his or her thoughts and have others offer comments and feedback on SNS’s. The online environment has a direct impact in creating active social interactions to assist in defining our identity. Self-presentation refers to a person’s effort to express a specific image and identity to others (Baumeister, Tice, & Hutton, 1989).
A study investigating the use of Facebook warns that people can misrepresent themselves more easily by controlling impressions and information via computers. People utilize different strategies to maintain their “persona” (Ellison, Gibbs & Heino, 2006). People often misrepresent themselves through pictures or false statements that make them seem more attractive. This kind of “false advertising” may have negative repercussions when the first meeting between individuals takes place, and the authenticity of prior communication and appearance is verified in person (Hardey, 2004). This raises questions about the relationship that exit between SNS usage and an individual’s self-esteem.
As a CBT practitioner I am “mindful” that we may need to start thinking about how Facebook could be incorporated into CBT practice to assist the therapeutic process. It could potentially serve as a platform to investigate and challenge the client’s automatic thoughts, erroneous beliefs, cognitive errors and compensation strategies. This could also raise a multitude of questions about incorporating Facebook (or other social networking sites) in treatment interventions for different disorders for example narcissism, depression and social phobia.