Commentary

What's The Research Showing?

If you employ social media to market a product, service or idea, you’re no doubt diligently measuring your KPIs. But what about the bigger picture? Here are the findings of some recent studies that assess the impact that the likes of Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter are having on your consumers’ daily lives.

Who’s On Top?
A Pew Research Center report released just after the election last month revealed, to the surprise of nobody following the news, that a majority of Americans now get at least some of their news via social media.

The Pew survey of 1,520 adults in the U.S. also found that four out of five adults over 18 who are online have Facebook accounts -- more than twice the rate for other services. More than half of respondents were on more than one service.

Interestingly, Pew found only 24% of smartphone users on messaging apps that automatically delete sent messages, such as Snapchat or Wickr, an increase of seven points over 2015. I suspect the increase will be much greater in its next survey this spring.

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“Some 56% of smartphone owners ages 18 to 29 use auto-delete apps, more than four times the share among those 30-49 (13%) and six times the share among those 50 or older (9%),” Pew reports.

Wickr, by the way, launched a professional version this week featuring end-to-end encryption and self-destruct timers.

You Talking About Me?
Meanwhile, in another finding that will probably come as no surprise to those casually observing current events, researchers at the University of Georgia who reviewed 62 studies with more than 13,000 individuals participating found that narcissistic individuals use social media to promote themselves.

But that could lead the casual observer to a more jaded view of mankind than is warranted. “When you engage with social media, you will be engaging with more narcissism than might really exist in the world. This might distort your view of the world as being more narcissistic than it is,” says Keith Campbell, a professor of psychology in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, co-author of "The Narcissism Epidemic," and the study’s senior author.

The researchers caution that there’s no proof that social media causes narcissism (or vice versa). “Theoretically, we suspect that individuals with pre-existing narcissism are drawn to social media, but the present evidence only establishes that the two are related,” says Jessica McCain, the study’s lead author.

“Narcissism and Social Media Use: A Meta-Analytic Review” is published in Psychology of Popular Media Culture.

Is This Depressing You?
It doesn’t have to. A meta-study of research on the link between social media and depression finds “the impact of online social networking may be both positive and negative.”

Indeed, an analysis of 30 articles that had 35,044 total participants across 14 countries finds that only 16% “found a positive correlation between engagement in online social networking and presence of symptoms of depression,” while 13% found no correlation. Furthermore, “positive outcomes emerged as significant across a number of studies,” suggesting “that for some social networking may act as a resource in managing depression.”

Most of the studies “suggested a complex relationship between online social networking and depression, involving factors that may mediate or moderate this relationship, helping to explain the variability of findings. These factors can be categorized ‘usage variables’ such as frequency, quality, and type of SNS use,” write David A. Baker andGuillermo Perez Algorta of Lancaster University in the U.K.

“The Relationship Between Online Social Networking and Depression: A Systematic Review of Quantitative Studies” is published on the Web site of Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking.

Time For A Break?
How often lately have you seen a friend write something like “Well, it took the engagement of my daughter to get me back on Facebook” (as I just did)? It turns out those breaks are indeed good for you, according to Morten Tromholt, who researched the issue with 1,095 participants for a master’s thesis written for the department of sociology at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

A “treatment” group took a break from Facebook for a week while the control group did not. 

“It was demonstrated that taking a break from Facebook has positive effects on two dimensions of well-being: our life satisfaction increases and our emotions become more positive,” according to the abstract.Furthermore, it was demonstrated that these effects were significantly greater for heavy Facebook users, passive Facebook users, and users who tend to envy others on Facebook.”

“The Facebook Experiment: Quitting Facebook Leads to Higher Levels of Well-Beingis also published by Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking.  

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