The use of professional social networking sites such as LinkedIn, with more than 930 million users worldwide, can stir up feelings of self-doubt, suggests new research.
Imposter syndrome — and the accompanying fear of being “found out” — can be associated with feeling anxious and having depressive thoughts, said researchers from the University of Edinburgh.
The research based on a survey of LinkedIn users, and published in the journal Psychology and Marketing, showed that interacting with the popular site was linked with experiences of imposter syndrome — a feeling of inadequacy despite evidence of success.
People felt a lack of professional confidence both when they browsed other people’s posts and when they posted about their personal achievements.
“Just browsing the newsfeed or even posting an achievement on LinkedIn can trigger a reflection on your professional identity that can ignite imposter thoughts, which is associated with a fear of being found out as an imposter,” said Dr. Ben Marder, from the varsity’s Business School.
“Our findings show the negative well-being effects of social media are not only because we compare ourselves to others, but because we believe others think more highly of us than we think of ourselves,” he added.
Researchers assessed the effects of using LinkedIn among 506 people. All respondents were educated to at least Bachelor’s degree level and had an average age of 36.
The researchers tested the effects of using LinkedIn in two ways — one to assess the effects of browsing others’ posts and one to gauge how they felt after posting their own successes.
In an online experiment, researchers found that reading other people’s posts had a small but still significant association with experiencing imposter syndrome, compared to not reading other people’s posts.
Posting on LinkedIn had a significant association with imposter syndrome, even after controlling for other possible influences, the study found.
While the sites offer career advancement opportunities, professional connections, and industry‐related knowledge and resources, researchers said the findings show an unwelcome side effect of the social media channels.
Confirmation that imposter syndrome is common among professionals could assist in supporting staff development schemes. Employees knowing that others share similar experiences may reduce the negative emotions, the researchers said.