Researchers found that Facebook users with so-called optimistic bias think they are less likely to experience cyberbullying, depression and other negative social and psychological effects from using the site.
Optimistic bias or an intrinsic tendency to imagine future events in a favourable light that enhances positive self-regard - in other words, wishful thinking - leaves those Facebook users vulnerable to the negative realities of social media.
"Our findings demonstrate important and novel discrepancies in how people perceive themselves and others concerning the positive and negative outcomes of Facebook use," said lead author Sunny Jung Kim, a postdoctoral research associate in the Psychiatric Research Center and the Center for Technology and Behavioral Health at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth.
"A growing number of studies report possible benefits and risks of using Facebook and other social media, ranging from effects on self-esteem to cyberbullying.
"But little is known about how people perceive themselves to be likely to experience these mixed outcomes and what the implications of having these perceptions are," Kim said.
In the new study, the researchers surveyed 237 active Facebook users between ages 18 and 37. The participants were asked to assess their own and other people's likelihood of experiencing positive and negative outcomes on Facebook.
They also were asked to rate their likelihood of supporting Internet regulations, their personal Facebook involvement and their attitudes toward Facebook use.
The results showed that Facebook users with optimistic bias tend to show strong support for Internet regulations to protect other users from social ostracising, although not from psychologically negative effects, including depression and loneliness.
The lack of support regarding psychological harms may be because mental health effects are perceived as less amenable to regulation or because their importance is underestimated, the researchers said.
The results also showed that Facebook users who view the site negatively or who use it infrequently think other people are more likely than themselves to have positive experiences on the site, a reversed optimistic bias that is new and intriguing, researchers said.
The findings appear in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking.