Studies on Likeability

alex atkins bookshelf cultureTo like or not to like, that is the question that Facebook, Twitter, or any social networking website poses each day to everyone who is connected to the internet. The prevalence of “liking” in the digital social network era, has given rise to a new field — cyberpsychology that focuses on the effects of social networking websites on well-being.

In 2015 researchers at the University of Montreal and the Institut Universitaire de Sante Mentale de Montreal found that teenagers with more than 300 Facebook friends experienced higher level of stress, as measured by higher levels of cortisol, a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal gland. Researchers found that as the number of friends increased (i.e., 1,000 or 2,000), the level of stress increased. On the other hand teenagers who had a fewer number — and thus more manageable number — of Facebook friends, and acted in supporting ways (eg., by liking posts and sending notes of encouragement) experienced less stress, showing lower levels of cortisol. Therefore, while many teenagers make every attempt to post items to attract more likes to boost their self-esteem, paradoxically, they are impacting their well-being negatively by creating more stress for themselves.

Outside the context of Facebook, likeability that is at the heart of most relationships is often misunderstood. There is a common misconception that likeability is a trait, belonging to people that are fortunate to be attractive, gregarious, and smart or talented. However, researchers Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman developed a study measuring 360 behaviors of 51,836 leaders that strongly suggest that likeability is not an immutable trait, but rather people can learn behaviors that dramatically increase their likeability. They identify seven key steps:

1. Increase positive emotional connection with others
2. Display rock solid integrity
3. Cooperate with others
4. Be a coach, mentor, and teacher
5. Be an inspiration
6. Be visionary and future-focused
7. Ask for feedback and make an effort to change

Travis Bradberry, author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, and his team at TalentSmart analyzed behavior from more than one million people to distill a list of thirteen specific behaviors that increase likeability:

Ask questions
Put away your smartphone
Be genuine
Don’t pass judgment
Don’t seek attention
Be consistent
Use positive body language
Leave a strong first impression
Greet people by name
Know when to open up
Touching someone appropriately during conversation (handshake, touch on shoulder)
Balance passion and fun

Bradberry also refers to a study conducted at UCLA, where participants rated more than 500 adjectives based on their perceived significance to the concept of likeability. Surprisingly, the highest ranked adjectives had nothing to do with innate characteristics (like attractiveness, gregariousness, or intelligence) but rather sincerity, transparency, and capacity for understanding another person.

Read related posts: The Impact of Smartphones on Society
The Impact of Mobile Technology

How Will History Judge the Google Generation?
The Google Generation: Reduced to Passivity and Egoism?
Google Makes People Feel Smarter Than They Are
There’s a Word for That: Nomophobia
What Should You Teach Your Kids Before They Leave Home? 

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