Using professional social networking sites such as LinkedIn can trigger feelings of imposter syndrome, research suggests.
A survey of LinkedIn users found interacting with the site is linked with experiences of the syndrome – a feeling of inadequacy in the workplace despite evidence of success.
Researchers from the University of Edinburgh Business School found people felt a lack of professional confidence both when they browsed others people’s posts and when they posted about their personal achievements.
The study found thoughts of self-doubt drove many users to directly address the issue by paying for competency skills courses.
Dr Ben Marder, of the university’s Business School, said: “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.
“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.”
The 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.
They tested the effects of using LinkedIn in two ways – one to assess the effects of browsing posts by others, and one to gauge how they felt after posting about their own successes.
In an online experiment, researchers found 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 also had a significant association with imposter syndrome, even after controlling for other possible influences, the study found.
Professional social network sites such as LinkedIn and Xing are widely used, and LinkedIn has more than 930 million users worldwide.
Researchers said recognising that imposter syndrome is common among professionals could help to support staff development schemes.
The study, which was made possible through a collaboration with the University of Bristol, University of Southampton and Zhongnan University of Economics and Law, is published in Psychology and Marketing.