Chan Terri H. , MPhil
School of Business, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong.
This study examines how Facebook usage affects individual’s empathic social skills and life satisfaction. Following the self-presentational theory, the study explores a key component of the Internet paradox—whether Facebook suppresses or enhances users’ interpersonal competence (specifically empathic social skills), given their respective personality makeup. Going further, the study assesses these events’ subsequent impacts on users’ psychological well-being. Analogous to a double-edged sword, Facebook activities are hypothesized to suppress the positive effect of a user’s extraversion orientation on empathic social skills but lessen the negative effect of neuroticism on these skills. The study examines a sample of college-aged Facebook users (n=515), who responded to a large-scale online survey. The findings from a structural equation modeling analysis indicate that while empathic social skills are positively associated with life satisfaction, Facebook activities mainly exert suppression effects. Only upon low usage can Facebook activities lessen the negative effect of neuroticism on empathic social skills, suggesting that Facebook may appear as a less threatening platform for social interactions among neurotics. Yet, results in general suggest that undesirable effects may occur at high levels of Facebook usage whereby both extroverted and neurotic users displace real world social ties to online ones. The findings point to the complex ways in which social media usage may impact the livelihood of users.