Well, we can file this one in the “discouraging but not particularly surprising” folder.
New research from academics in Germany suggests that people who display materialistic characteristics in other areas of their lives are likely to view their digital connections on social media as objects, to be collected and curated, as well.
The paper by researchers at the Ruhr-University Bochum in Germany, titled “Facebook: The Self-Regulatory Role of Social Comparisons and the Objectification of Facebook friends,” was based on online questionnaires administered to 242 Facebook users.
The questionnaires used a variety of indices to measure both social-media engagement and attitudes toward material possessions, for example agreement with questions such as: “My life would be better if I owned certain things I don't have.”
The study found that people with materialistic characteristics are more likely to use Facebook more often, and with a higher degree of engagement, than peers with fewer materialistic characteristics.
They also place greater emphasis on comparing themselves to other Facebook users, and this extends to amassing more online friends than others, as reflected in agreement with the statement: “Having many Facebook friends contributes more success in my personal and professional life.”
Lead author Phillip Ozimek explained: “Materialistic people use Facebook more frequently because they tend to objectify their Facebook friends -- they acquire Facebook friends to increase their possession.”
The researchers repeated the experiment with another study group composed of 289 Facebook users, with different sample criteria, and uncovered a similar correlation in responses from people with materialist tendencies.