As Ethos International has launched its new Facebook page to recruit more lifestyle readers and self growth seekers, and to share its advice and opinions to more people around the world, I began to think about the function of Facebook outside of its advertising purposes. As Facebook has struck us all and changed the means of communication as we know it today, I considered in a previous essay tilted Identity In The Digital Age, the change that social media has enforced upon our identities and the identities of youth today. Thus far, psychology has not left out this new technology unexamined and with the introduction new technologies, a new realm of research has flooded the field. Such a construct cannot exist without touching our identities, beliefs and well being.
A particular study that has caught my eye is on Narcissim on Facebook researched by Christopher Carpenter, which made me realize that when we talk about Facebook or any other type of social media, we might as well use another language and let go of all preconceived notions of how social interactions play out. I believe that social interactions today via cyber space look nothing like social interactions in our everyday face-to-face real world interactions. For example, what we might explicitly exhibit on Facebook, may be out of character to our ‘self’ presented in real life interactions. Therefore, you most likely have come across a person who is very talkative and expressive on Facebook, but when you meet that same person, sitting across from you on the other side of the table, they are as quite as a hamster, and do not take an active role in social conversation. Cyber space defies the rules of ‘offline’ social interaction and communication and has appeared, creating its own new norms and rules.
They found that subjects with specific narcissistic personality traits (grandiose exhibitionism) were associated with taking part in self promoting behavior on Facebook such as posting photos, updating their status and attaining large number of friends.
The research I referred to above was studied by Christopher Carpenter, who used a tool to measure narcissistic personality traits in a number of subjects and looked at their Facebook use in terms of self-promoting Facebook behavior. They found that subjects with specific narcissistic personality traits (grandiose exhibitionism) were associated with taking part in self promoting behavior on Facebook such as posting photos, updating their status and attaining large number of friends. Their results made me think about the purpose of having a Facebook account, and whether it was a means of self-promoting ? Is this not why we have Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, to promote ourselves and display our thoughts which implicitly exhibit our personalities. As people around the world, including myself, update their status on a weekly basis and post pictures occasionally, what does this study implies about ‘us’. Is it looking at a form of social interaction that is outdated? Maybe talking about yourself is more acceptable on Facebook than in an ‘offline’ interaction. It may be that in the social world of Facebook updating your status is a means of communication and not one of ‘showing off’. None the less, the study can inform us a lot about the personality traits of people and how they exhibit that on Facebook, yet I wonder if we can characterize them as such from their Facebook behavior. The social norms are different on social media and that is something to think about.
A psychiatrist and a Clinical Psychologist decided to explore the motive and basis of using a Facebook account. In their study titled, Why do people use Facebook?, which is a very legitimate question to ask when there are over 6 million Facebook users around the world, Ashwini Nadkarni, and Stefan Hofmann, examined all the literature to answer this question and came up with a model of Facebook use. They proposed the Dual-Factor Model of FB Use, which implies that FB use is primarily motivated by two basic social needs, the need to belong and the need for self-presentation. They explain:
“The need to belong refers to the intrinsic drive to affiliate with others and gain social acceptance, and the need for self presentation to the continuous process of impression management”.
Human’s need for social connectedness, translates online as the number of friends one has or the number of likes one gets which may imply being ‘liked’ offline, which as a result may increase self-esteem and self-worth. Nadkarni and Hofmann note in their review, that “these needs can act independently and are influenced by a host of other factors, including the cultural background, socio-demographic variables, and personality traits, such as introversion, extroversion shyness, narcissism, neuroticism, self-esteem, and self-worth.” There they clarify that although social media sites and the virtual space of the internet may have formed different rules of communication they still relate to individuals and ‘offline’ factors.