Competition enforces lying?

The research ‘Competition and Information Deception in Online Social Networks’ by E. Mitchell Church and Ravi Thambusamy discusses the reasons for the misrepresentation of data on online social network (OSN) sites. They argue that misrepresentation on social media is not only the effect of the fear to lose private information but also because of competition. They point out that any aspect of life in which social status is both disparate and observable has the potential to foster feelings of competition. I think that the argument made by Church and Thambusamy is true, and applies to our lives, however, I would make the point that fear of being different also drives misrepresentation on OSN’s.

Before moving into more detail, I would like to point out that this can be seen as a typical research paper, following the scheme IMRD. We can compare the structure of this paper, to the structure of another paper we have read- ‘How stressful are economic competitions in the lab? An investigation with physiological measures’ by Buckert et al. As seen, both of these papers follow the structure IMRD, and are much different in composition from the other articles we had a chance to read in this course.

In this article, the authors form five hypotheses: (1) The desire for online competition is positively related to the intention to misrepresent personal information (2) The desire for online competition is negatively related to the intention to refuse to disclose personal information (3) Competitive social norms are positively related to the desire for online competition on OSN (4) Perceived status benefits are positively related to the desire for online competition on OSN (5) Perceived hedonic benefits are positively related to the desire for online competition on OSN.

From these five hypotheses, every one but the third were found to be correct. They state that misrepresentation and refusal intentions were found to be related to the individual’s desire for online competition. Further, their results showed that ‘online competition is in turn dependent on appraisals of hedonic and status benefits inherent in the social network platform’. This illustrates that people misrepresent data about themselves on OSN’s because of their competitive nature. People are automatically driven to be better, or at least not worse than others, making them willing to change their profile information, so it shows them in the best light. People do not want to be found at a disadvantaged position in comparison to others. This is also what garlandbr argues in his response. He says that users will go to the ‘extreme methods to be the best or win this competition’, which I fully agree with. It seems that people, nowadays, only strive to get the most likes or followers as they possibly can in order to be better than others.

Although the fact that competition highly influences people’s actions on social media is very true, I think that there is also one more thing that drives humans to falsify data- fear of being different than others. Many times, people get criticized for having different opinions than the majority. When we see posts of other influencial people articulating a different position than we hold on a matter, that pressure often makes us change the information in our profiles, so that we “do not stand out”. We do not want to be different, so it is natural for us to change true information to appear the same as others.

As we can see, the main argument made by Church and Thambusamy stands correct- people’s misrepresentation of data on online social networking sites is driven by the competitive nature of humans. However, I believe that together with competition, the fear of being different also contributes to the misrepresentation. As I said before, I think there is a general fear in humans to be different than the majority, contributing to the practice of personal information deception. But, overall there still needs to be more research done on this topic to be certain as to why people falsify information about themselves.

Image Source: http://www.customerexperienceinsight.com/competition-lying-5-appropriate-responses/

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