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Social rank judgments on Facebook and their emotional consequences as a function of social anxiety Parsons, Carly A.


Socially anxious individuals are vigilant to social hierarchies, and there is preliminary evidence that they perceive dominant others to be higher in social rank than do those who are not socially anxious. Other research has indicated that socially anxious individuals spend a great deal of time on the Internet, that they prefer to engage in passive activity on social networking sites, and that both of these behaviours confer emotional risks. The current study aimed to connect these research areas by determining whether socially anxious individuals engage in a social rank judgment bias on Facebook and whether this might account for the negative emotional consequences they experience. Two hundred twelve undergraduate students were each presented with 10 randomly selected Facebook profiles of unknown peers and rated each peer on traits related to social rank. They also completed state measures of self-esteem and affect at the beginning and end of the study. Participants with higher trait levels of social anxiety experienced greater decreases in state self-esteem and positive affect after having rated the unknown peers’ profiles. Contrary to expectations, however, these emotional outcomes were not accounted for by a social rank judgment bias, as social anxiety did not predict higher social rank ratings. These results extend previous research by illustrating the emotional impact of online social judgments for socially anxious individuals. The findings are discussed in relation to the literatures on social anxiety, social rank judgments, and social networking site use, and other potential mechanisms of this emotional impact are considered.

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