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Online identities reflect real ones

Jenna Johnson

Eight years ago, University of Virginia psychology professor Amori Yee Mikami recruited a group of 172 children who were 13 or 14 years old and assessed their popularity and friendliness. amori_mikami.jpg

Recently, Mikami and her colleagues went looking for them on Facebook and MySpace. They wanted to know how certain personality types use social media. Their findings appear in the January issue of Developmental Psychology.

"It was like being a fly on the wall at a slumber party," Mikami said in a statement.

She found that the young adults who were better adjusted in their early teens were more likely to use social media in their early 20s and continue having strong friendships -- regardless of age, gender, ethnicity or family income.

The interactions that these young adults have online are similar to the face-to-face ones they had as teens. Mikami said parents of well-adjusted children might not need to worry so much about Facebook ruining their teenagers' social lives.

But the young teens who had behavior problems, were depressed or had difficulty making and keeping friends grew up to use social media in "less-than-positive ways." This includes using excessive profanity, making hostile remarks or aggressive gestures or posting nude photos of themselves or others.

The members of this group were less likely to even have profiles. Those who did had fewer strong, supportive relationships with their Facebook or MySpace friends.

By Jenna Johnson  |  January 27, 2010; 7:45 PM ET
Categories:  Networking  | Tags: Facebook, MySpace, University of Virginia  
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