Tweets, Likes and Views: The Psychology of Social Media
Social media has definitely transformed the way people interact. The world is becoming increasingly connected through the wonders of the Internet and as a result we now live in a society where access to Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and many other social networking platforms is virtually everywhere. It has become so popular that it seems that relating to other physically seems outdated. There are loads of social networking sites which are used to document memories, learn about and explore things, advertise oneself and form friendships, but Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are the major players.
I use social media, mainly Twitter, a lot. It is magic, almost like a childhood dream. It allows me to surround myself with interesting people: celebrities, politicians, authors and even psychologists that I look up to. On Twitter, there's no shortage of interesting people with interesting things to say. But we don’t just use Twitter to listen to these people, research has confirmed that people use microblogging to talk about their daily activities and to seek or share information.
The notion of “liking” on Facebook is akin to an ego need. The ego, as a rule, seeks to be liked and admired
Since it was launched in 2004, Facebook has become a popular means of communication. It is a never-ending virtual party filled with viral videos, latest holidays, wedding announcements, baby showers and adopted kittens. But why do people use Facebook? According to one study, the need to belong and the need for self-presentation are the two primary motivating factors that drive us to use it. It makes sense; after all everyone craves for a sense of belonging and Facebook provides us with that in a virtual sense. Or as Aaron Balick elegantly puts it, 'The notion of “liking” on Facebook is akin to an ego need. The ego, as a rule, seeks to be liked and admired'.
With endless funny videos, music, travels, documentaries and tutorials, YouTube is a fun way to kill time and educate yourself. A 2009 study explored whether motives and individual differences predicted viewing videos on YouTube and sharing videos with others. Consistent with uses and gratifications assumptions, motives and individual differences differentially predicted viewing and sharing behaviours. It has been revealed that while people watch videos on YouTube for some of the same reasons identified in studies of TV viewing, there is a distinctly social aspect to YouTube use that reflects its social networking aspects.
There are many studies that have identified the negative aspects of social media ranging from narcissism, usage by extremist groups, to cyberbullying. But for the meantime, let’s just dwell on the more positive side. Closely linked to collective self-esteem, research has shown that social media can increase our individual self-esteem (Gangadharbatla, 2008). This is common with teenagers who would normally find face-to-face situations daunting and uncomfortable (Steinfield, Ellison & Lampe, 2008). This is great as it means that social media can increase social capital for many teenagers who may feel unable to make friends.
Facebook is one alternative means for less assertive students to be able to express their thoughts in and outside of the classroom. It allows students to collect their thoughts and voice them through writing before committing to their expression (Moody 2010). Meanwhile, Sherer and Shea (2011) claimed that YouTube increased participation, personalisation and productivity. YouTube also improved students’ digital skills and provided opportunity for peer learning and problem solving. Twitter also promotes social connections among students. It can be used to enhance communication building and critical thinking. Domizi (2013) utilised Twitter in a graduate seminar requiring students to post weekly tweets to extend classroom discussions. Students reportedly used Twitter to connect with content and other students. Additionally, students found it ‘to be useful professionally and personally’.
Social media is a topic that divides opinion - some people think it's a useful tool while others are worried about the negative impact it has on people's lives. So let’s just be aware of how we all use it so that we positively benefit from all our tweets, likes and views.