With ever-increasing usage of Social media sites like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, et cetera, the social network has become a vast platform for research in the field of competition. With a plethora of websites with distinct functions spanning this platform, an internet user today has innumerable options for satisfying his/her social needs without ever getting out of his/her bed. But the expanded use of social media has enlarged the meaning of the word ‘social need’, especially among teenagers and young adults. From their perspective, it has now become an umbrella term that (along with offline, in-person connections – competitive or cooperative – with the outside world) also harbors online, social competition.
As the bondage of social media with and among daily life strengthens, information withheld, misinterpreted or disclosed by a typical user on Online Social Network(OSN) sites starts taking more relevance and importance in his/her life. Previous studies have shown that privacy and security are huge influencers in this arena(Son J-Y et al, Turel O et al), but Church and Thambusamy highlight the possibility that competitive feelings can also be the driver of such decisions. They put forth the argument that a users’ intention to misinterpret or withhold information depends upon his/her desire for online competition which, in turn, depends upon the benefits the user perceives he/she can gain from such competition(in form of competitive social norms, status improvement benefits, and hedonic benefits).
Church and Thambusamy hypothesize that desire for online competition is positively influenced by competitive social norms(Is competition socially acceptable or not?), status benefits and hedonic benefits(H1, H2, H3). They also postulate that the desire for online competition positively influences the misinterpretation of personal information and negatively influences the intention to withhold personal information(H4, H5). A survey based research plan was implemented for testing the hypotheses with a sample comprising 499 students studying in a US University. Statistics measured were loadings, composite reliability and average variance extracted for all constructs. Almost all hypotheses were found to be true except H1, where the numbers provided no support for the possibility that desire for online competition is driven by ‘the level of acceptance of competition in a community’.
OSN Competition does not involve the existence of a physical realm with the world and therefore, the motivation for such competition, I perceive, is purely of intrinsic origin. To succeed in such an intangible competition, misinterpretation of personal information becomes one the most valuable tools. It is manifested in the form of photo editing, copied captions and stolen ‘bios’. Almost all of us have, at least once, done the aforementioned things. Such kind of behavior not only poses us as a deceiver in eyes of the rest of the world but it also detaches us from our true, basic self. Social Competition lets us see ourselves in a way we wish to be perceived rather than who we truly are. The question it comes down to is: Do we misinterpret personal information to change the world’s perception of ourselves or to change/match our own perception of ourselves?
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