Sunday, September 26, 2021

The Effect Of Online & Face-To-Face Feedback On Self-Esteem

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Today, people are more engaged with online interaction than with face to face interaction. Hence, arising are different effects on people which prior to this time have never even been thought of.


The Effect Of Online & Face-To-Face Feedback On Self-Esteem
Photo credit: Integrated Listening Systems

Online interaction and face to face interaction have different effects on a person and this article seeks to identify the effects of online and face to face interaction with regards to self esteem after receiving both dis-confirming and confirming feedback.

First, there is need to define the terms that were used in this research in order to give room for easier understanding.

Online Interaction

This is an interaction between two or more people that occurs over the internet.

Face-To-Face Interaction

This term is used to describe social interaction between people without the interference of technology.

Dis-confirming feedback

Dis-confirming feedback is a type of response which sends negative information about a person during an interaction.

Confirming feedback

Confirming feedback is a type of response which sends positive information about a person during an interaction.


In order to ensure effective communication, self disclosure is important (Antheunis, Valkenburg, & Peter, 2007). Self disclosure is the revealing of information about a person by themselves.

However, for both means of communication, the responses received after self disclosure can have a certain effect on a person’s self esteem. This is because self disclosure especially in online communication involves exposing one’s vulnerable side, and also the numerous risks.

Among young people, it is important that they maintain a high self esteem, and this is even a developmental milestone important for their developmental wellbeing (Baumeister, Campbell, Krueger, & Vohs, 2003).

However, they form this self esteem largely through interaction with their peers which takes place mainly online. This is why it has become important to understand the role of feedback to self-disclosure in online communication and its effects on people’s self-esteem.

Existing research has shown that the type of feedback received by a person in their online interaction, affects the way they perceive themselves and this is mostly because self esteem and peer feedback on social media are related to each other (Thomaes et al., 2010; Valkenburg, Peter, & Schouten, 2006).

But a gap exists in the fact that the influence which feedback gives to a person’s online self disclosure by his peers has not really been studied. The second gap exists in the understanding of how a person responds to the feedback given to him from their self disclosure.

Gruenenfelder-Steiger, Harris, & Fend (2016) showed that in online communication, peer approval which is confirming feedback is positively related to self esteem whereas peer rejection which is dis-confirming feedback is negatively related to self esteem. However there is enough reason to believe that differences would exist between online and face to face communication.

Why is this so?

Walther (1996) showed through the hyper personal model of computer mediated communication, how online interactions exceed by far, the potency of face to face interactions. This models showed that reduced audio-visual cues of online communication, ability to edit messages promote a selective self presentation.

This is especially true of social media today, as what we have come to refer to as “fake life” on Instagram and Facebook is really just everyone trying to present the best version of themselves.  This results into an extrapolation of positive impressions of their online communication partners.

There is also the role of the dynamics of reciprocal feedback to consider. People tend to reciprocate the level of intimacy in each other’s messages(Jourard, 1964), and for this reason, it is important to consider the reciprocity principle when determining people’s positive and negative behaviour in response to one another.

When you are friendly towards a person (confirming feedback), they respond in a positive way, and when you are hostile towards a person (dis-confirming feedback), they respond in a negative way. This is not something that may always happen in a face to face interaction. Hence the suggestion that online communication is way more potent than face to face communication.

If it has this much potency, what is its effect on the self esteem of the people who partake in it?

There are two ways to consider when examining the effect of reciprocal feedback on a person’s self esteem.

The self-perception theory

According to the self perception theory, people infer how they feel based on their own behavior (Bem, 1972). This means that people look back at their behavior in a particular situation and form their attitudes, either in a change of direction leading to an attitude change or in the same direction, strongly forming the original attitude.

These similar effects have been found in online communication (Walther, Van Der Heide, Tong, Carr, & Atkin, 2010). It is thus highly possible that positive reciprocal feedback during an online communication reinforces positive self perceptions, thereby increasing a person’s self esteem.

Also, in online communication, people continue to see their messages on the screen, and this in turn increases the magnitude of the effect of their behavior on self perception(Walther, 1996).


Retaliation is a way in which reciprocal feedback can influence self esteem. Retaliation is a way of coping with unfavorable treatment by another person (e.g., Gollwitzer & Denzler, 2009), in particular when one’s self-esteem has been damaged (Bies, Tripp, & Kramer, 1997). Here, a person is motivated to respond negatively to dis-confirming feedback, and this retaliation restores balance and the person feels like all is fair and square in that relationship(Berscheid, Boye, & Walster, 1968), and this may also go on to help restore their self esteem.

However, the flaw with this is what happens when the person keeps ruminating about the situation instead of moving on and taking their mind of it? Or a situation whereby the person feels awkward because retaliation is a socially undesirable behavior? In this situation this could cancel out the positive effect he or she felt earlier.


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