In this week’s reading, “Competition and Information Deception in Online Social Networks”, a research journal written by Mitchel Church and Ravi Thambusamy, the authors conducted a survey on about 500 US southwestern university students about social media usage, and found that people manipulate their personal information on social networking services deliberately to make their profiles out-stand others from their online competitive desires. I believe that this online competitiveness arises within SNS users because they are competing for scarce resources, that are things such as attention, “likes”, “shares”, friends, followers, etc. The paper did not touch on exactly ‘what’ the competition was for, but I thought that it was interesting to think about why people feel competitive and misrepresent themselves on the internet.
The paper emphasized on the “hedonic benefits” of the social networking services, arguing and proving that it was one of the greatest factors why people engage in SNS, along with the “perceived achievable status”. When we post on social media and the post receives a “like”, dopamine is released and we experience pleasure. Perhaps it is that, by misrepresenting one’s profile on, say, Instagram, then they could get more likes, and that is why they do it. Sometimes people perceive the amount of attention they get as a measure of their social status, and it could be that that is also why people might apply filters or process their photo/videos before posting on social media to gain attention.
I believe that people choose to manipulate their profiles often because there is so much limitation on what they could present of themselves on their social media page. There is so much about every person but the most you can tell the visitors of your page is just a very basic description of who you are. With that, I think people end up looking a lot similar, and that is why people manipulate their profiles to stand out and appear interesting to others, to compete for attention. In our week 5 reading, the Garcia paper, the authors argued that competitiveness increases when the perceived similarity between the competitors increase, and I believe that this could be also applied to the situation described in this paper. In her journal entry, titled “What drives us to be more competitive?”, by 1thinktwice, she described the competition that she experienced in her high school volleyball teammate, who was very similar to her. She wrote, “[the teammate] had the same role (libero), same height, and same speciality (serving) because I had to outperform her in order to play as a major player in the game and the similarity between me and her made the comparison to have the biggest impact on competitiveness.”. Here, she is competing for a scarce resource that is the position that she plays in. For the SNS users, they are competing also for scarce resources that are things such as followers or attention, and to differentiate themselves from others and to become more competitive, they manipulate their identity, just like how 1thinktwice had to practice and outperform her rival to win the position over her.
Both the Church et al’s and Garcia’s arguments seem to agree and together make sense in explaining why people might manipulate their profiles in SNS – to differentiate themselves and make them out-stand from others because often times if we are always so honest about ourselves and provide very basic information about us, we will appear similar and will not be competitive.