Commentary

Ordinary Social Media Users Are Buying 'Likes' Too

It’s well known that brands, bands, bloggers and other unabashed self-promoters all buy “likes” and followers on social media to pad their numbers and create the appearance of popularity and success, which are after all the same thing.

But it may surprise you to learn that a proportion of ordinary social media users, about one in seven, is doing the exact same thing. As our president might say: SAD!

This interesting and somewhat depressing fact was uncovered by researchers at Huron University College in Ontario, Canada, who surveyed around 450 participants ages 18-29 through an online polling platform, and found that 15% admitted to buying “likes” from Web sites for their Instagram profiles, at prices ranging from $2.95 for 100 likes to $69.99 for 10,000 (always buy in bulk, people).

Buying likes is just one of a number of everyday deceits practiced by social media users, according to the study, titled “Lying or longing for likes? Narcissism, peer belonging, loneliness and normative versus deceptive like-seeking on Instagram in emerging adulthood” and published in Computers in Human Behavior.

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The researchers break down the tricks of the trade into two broad categories, designating them as either “normative,” which I will classify as “white lies,” versus “deceptive,” meaning “lies that work.”

Basic normative tactics include using Instagram filters to tweak images to benefit one’s appearance – a more or less universal practice, I feel – while deceptive tactics include buying likes, as mentioned, as well as using photo editing software to substantially change one’s appearance.

On the latter note, 25% of respondents said they engaged in digital plastic surgery before posting photos.

Of course, this isn’t the first study to suggest that human nature applies to social media.

Last year a survey of 2,000 British social media users found that just  19% of respondents to Custard’s online survey said that their social media profile is “a completely accurate reflection of me and who I am.”

Among the dishonest majority, 31% said they edited out all the boring details to make their life seem more exciting, and 14% said they specifically craft their profile page to make it seem like their social life is much more active than it actually is.

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