Amanda Forest, a graduate student at the University of Waterloo, and her adviser, Joanne Wood, asked students how they felt about Facebook.
People with low self-esteem were more likely to think Facebook provided an opportunity to connect with other people and to perceive it as a safe place that reduces the risk of awkward social situations, the researchers said.
They also investigated what students actually wrote on Facebook, asking the students for their last 10 status updates. Each set of status updates was rated by an undergraduate -- a stranger -- for how positive or negative it was and how much they liked the person who wrote them.
The study, published in the journal Psychological Science, found people with low self-esteem were more negative than people with high self-esteem -- and the coders liked them less.
The coders were strangers, but that's realistic, Forest said because in their earlier research, they found nearly half of Facebook friends are actually strangers or acquaintances -- not close friends.
In addition, people with high self-esteem for more responses when they post negative items, perhaps because these are rarer, the researchers said.