Rosen cautions that his work thus far has only shown a connection between certain kinds of behavior and Facebook use, not causation. Whether Facebook encourages narcissistic tendencies in its users, for example, or happens to attract narcissistic users in the first place, is not clear yet.
At the American Psychological Association Convention, Elizabeth Carll, a clinical psychologist and author, presented a talk on the effects of cyberbullying and online harassment. She offered the observation, based on experiences at her own clinical practice, that the negative effects of cyberbullying can be more severe than face-to-face confrontations. The thing that makes it different, she says, is the fact that it’s impossible to escape. “Cyberstalking is 24/7,” she says. “The world knows instantly. If your boyfriend has a compromising picture of you, he can send it to anyone.”
Some psychologists are more skeptical about the impact of recent technological shifts. John Suler, a professor of psychology at Rider University, says “the current fascination with technology and social media is, in my opinion, just a stage we’re going through … Over time, as the technology craze starts to quiet down, we’ll realize once again that balance in online/offline activity is as important as any kind of balance in life.”
Michele Strano, assistant professor in the department of communication studies at Bridgewater College, says Facebook may simply reinforce existing behavior. “Many of our Facebook friends are people we also interact with in face-to-face environments,” she says. “Thus, our online and offline identities tend to have some consistent threads.”
Ultimately, says Tufekci, the needs of kids today are not all that different from those of kids in the past, Facebook or no: “They want approval of their peers, are often interested in pushing and testing boundaries, and need support and love from their parents as they deal with the pressures and rewards of growing up.”