This amazing guest post was written by Jeriann Watkins Ireland, a writer, and wellness enthusiast. We encourage you to check out more from Jeriann at her website.
Social media is a large part of many people’s lives, with the average Internet user spending 135 minutes a day on social media. That’s just over 2 hours each day. Some statistics show teenagers spending up to nine hours a day on social media. What is it that draws so many people to spend large amounts of their time on social media? One 2017 study explored certain facets of this issue.
Motivations for Social Media Use
The study, performed by Phillip Ozimek and colleagues, identified three basic motives for social media use. These included:
- Self-presentation, or the need to present yourself and life as positively as possible (to both yourself and others)
- Social interaction and the need to belong (this includes staying in touch with friends and relatives)
- Social comparison
While there may be more reasons than the ones listed above, it appears most motivations stem from one of these categories. For example, if you like to scroll back through your feed to remind yourself of things you posted, self-presentation and having control over how others see your life is probably important to you on some level. No matter what your motivation for social media use is, there can be positive and negative effects on your wellbeing. Knowing your motivations can allow for self-reflection and analyzing how social media is positively and negatively affecting you.
The researchers observed that some people use social media to achieve materialistic goals and posed the question of whether materialism could be another motivation for high social media use.
Materialism and Social Media
A new study revealed that people who have a lot of Facebook friends tend to be materialistic, compared to people with fewer Facebook friends. “Materialistic people use Facebook more frequently because they tend to objectify their Facebook friends – they acquire Facebook friends to increase their possessions,” summarized the study’s researcher, Phillip Ozimek. The study used a questionnaire to measure how much people compare themselves to others, their levels of materialism, their social media use, and how much “status” they feel they gain from social media.
What’s interesting about the study is that it falls in line with previous research about materialism, which concluded that materialists like to collect things that they can display publicly; it’s not just about having them. And since friends lists are shown publicly on Facebook, it’s the perfect “collector’s item” for a materialist.
The Ozimek study states: “More generally, we suggest that materialists have a tendency to view and treat non-material events (like friendships) as a possession or as means to attain their materialistic goals.” This can be seen clearly on job networking sites like LinkedIn, where many people seek to collect as many connections as possible because they believe it will increase their chances of advancing professionally.
The Effects of Materialism
So if teenagers are spending nine hours a day on social media, could this be a sign of materialism and treating relationships and interactions as objects? If so, how does this affect how people interact?
One aspect noted in the Ozimek studied is that materialists often don’t consider the emotions of the people they objectify. This certainly could affect interpersonal relationships. When people don’t feel valued, they tend to disconnect from the person devaluing them. This could lead to people having fewer deep relationships.
Materialism can also lead to emotional health problems, as when value lies in material items, the removal of those items can cause an identity crisis or other forms of stress. If someone unfriends you, you might just replace them with a new friend. But if a bunch of people unfriend you, you may start to question your own value, because you measure your value by possessions, which you now have fewer of. Or if a major life event happens where you need support, you might find that you don’t have relationships deep enough to provide that support.
As mentioned above, analyzing your social media usage and the motivations behind it can help you analyze your relationships and the mental space you occupy. If you know that the most important thing on social media is your number of friends, you can then think about whether you value people as whole human beings with emotions, and how you value yourself. This introspection can lead you to manage your behaviors with both the positive and negative impacts in mind and possibly avoid mental and emotional stress.
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