Within today’s society, many people are so intrigued in the lives of others, maintaining existing social relationships and finding people with similar interests. Three factors that suggest why we as humans are fascinated by the concept of social networking are Social, Behavioural and Cognitive and Self and Identity (Mc Mahon, 2015) which open a wide range of topics for psychologists to investigate. Social networking sites are defined as ‘a website that is designed to help people communicate and share information, photographs, etc. with a group’ (social networking sites, n.d.) and are part of an ever-growing phenomenon within the 21st century which has become a big interest to psychologists. By analysing recent research into social networking and comparing the contributing factors which are vital in the growth and popularity of social media, this essay will look into why psychologists are interested in social networking sites.
An article from The Psychologist written by (Mc Mahon, 2015), emphasises three main areas that allow an array of research into the use and popularity of social media. Behavioural and cognitive factors are important when discussing the reputation of social networking within the next generation; as humans, we have a strong preference for new information as well as a preference for novelty and as a result, the ever-changing designs and layouts of social networking sites keep the attention of the growing audience who use them. The main purpose of social networking is to allow its users to make and maintain new connections; by pressing ‘add a friend’ or ‘follow’, user’s actions are positively reinforced when their request is accepted with the reward of the connection and information of others.
A study by (Kramer, Guillory, & Hancock, 2014) investigated whether emotional contagion arises in online interactions as well as real-life interactions. Results found that emotions expressed by friends on Facebook have an influence on our own emotions. This suggests that behavioural and cognitive actions are equal in both the online and real-life worlds. Whilst this study suggested a strong relationship between online and real-world interactions, results of studies in either field may not be generalisable. Furthermore, research has found that Personality differences have an effect on self-presentation on social media sites. (Ong, et al., 2011) investigated the relationship of narcissism and extraversion on self-presentation on Facebook. Results found that narcissism only accounted for self-generated content such as status updates and updating profile pictures. Narcissistic participants rated their profile picture updates as more glamorous, cool and attractive compared to less narcissistic participants, which implies more narcissistic individuals pick profile pictures that they deem to be more physically attractive.
As presented above, behavioural and cognitive aspects of human performance can be investigated through cyberpsychological research. However, it may not be the best way of investigating behavioural and cognitive factors. *ARGUE AGAINST USE OF SOCIAL NETWORKING*
Social factors are also very important to investigate within social networking. Social media has become very popular due to the simple psychological principle of conformity and in particular the idea of normative social influence. (Przybylski, Murayama, DeHaan, & Gladwell, 2013) investigated the concept of Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) and if there are correlations with motivational, emotional and behavioural actions. Results found that Fear of Missing Out was linked with high social media engagement levels and was particularly common in younger people. This therefore implies that social network users are constantly online to satisfy the concern of missing out and not being familiar with what is happening all around the world. As social media is easily accessible, it allows the fear of missing out to be easily fulfilled.
Social comparison theory, first proposed by (Festinger, 1954), suggested that people have an innate drive to evaluate and compare themselves to others. A study by (Ozimek & Bierhoff, 2016) investigated Facebook use in relation to age and the existence of social comparisons. Results showed that as the age of participants increased, the frequency of Facebook use decreased. Results also suggest that the interest in social comparisons also decreases as age increased. This therefore indicates that social comparisons are more dominant within younger internet users and consequently they would spend more time using social networking sites.
Analysing the way humans interact socially through social media can produce a wide selection of theories and data. Although, this may not be the most appropriate way of collecting data. For instance, the use of social media biases the sample; only certain societies have access to the internet and social networks and thus results are limited and cannot be generalised to the population as a whole. Another example is that there is no control in studies using social media. For example, when partaking in studies, the participant is often just posting statuses or pictures or answering question from the comfort of their own homes or offices. As a result, there could be extraneous variables that effect the answers of the participants, an example of an extraneous variable could include the television or music playing in the background or other people in the room acting as a distraction.
Another factor into why humans are interested in social networking sites are Self and Identity. This plays a big part within the world of social networking as