Competition in Social Media

In Competition and Information Deception in online social Networks, E. Mitchell Church and Ravi Thambusamy discuss “the role of competition in determining intentions toward personal information deception (PID) among users of online social network (OSN) sites” (p. 274). I agree that competition plays a significant role in the realm of OSN sites, such as Facebook, as used in this study, and Instagram which I think may prove to be an even better example.

The constant desire to be better than those around you is pushed on us by a society that values competition over cooperation, and therefore appears in many aspects of our daily lives, as discussed in class. On the topic of media and technology, I think that this article brings into evidence an aspect of this kind of competition which is especially important to our class, even if we were not the intended audience for this study. This is because our generation is extremely affected by competition in social media, exemplified by the fact that most participants in this study were under the age of 30 years old. We must be aware of these potential consequences of the overbearing sense of competition that hovers over our heads as we interact with each other, especially during online interactions. Each picture posted is an interaction, and will spark feedback. Driven by the need to be judged positively by her or his audience, one posts images which do not necessarily represent reality. ‘Selfies’ are a great example of this–perfectly painted or even photoshopped faces do not show genuinity or character, and only reinforce the stereotypes and hyper masculinity or femininity that society wants them too. Unfortunately, the most polished selfie is usually the most popular, and is often the most fake. The cycle is reinforced as the most fake post gets the most ‘likes’ and this person feels as though they have ‘won’ for the day. Taking this back into this study, I believe that users intentionally misrepresent information based on the same mentality. Instead of being honest, they are inclined to respond with what will benefit them the most in the game of portraying one’s self as the best. For example, may OSN sites ask for one’s age before they are allowed to create an account, as to ensure that no minors create accounts. Many underage people lie about their age in order to partake in this aspect of social competition, leaving the company with false data regarding their users’ ages. Additionally, some profile information is altered “to emphasise some profile characteristics and downplay others,” which encourages discrimination as some profile characteristics are valued more highly by OSN site users, consequently leaving some feeling left out, having ‘lost’ the game (p.174). “Misrepresentation of data leads to profiles that may not accurately reflect the circles or groups to which a member belongs,” an idea that only reinforces inter-group competition. In my eyes, inter-group competition leads more frequently to negative outcomes than to positive outcomes because increased group size leads to increased tension and more dramatic outcomes arise. Also, as Bateson suggested, cooperation leads to more progressive outcomes than competition does, so this increased tension and competition which affects more people than it would on an individual level in not necessarily beneficial for society as a whole. IN other words, this statement assumes that people should be kept in said isolating groups, and suggests that these groups benefit society, to this, I disagree.

“Competitive feelings can foster feelings of social, physical, or financial inadequacy leading people to take action so that they are perceived as ‘winners,’ not ‘losers” (p.174). This statement illustrates well how the social reality of competition affects people on an individual level and how many social media outlets serve as a mechanism for this competition to foster. Social media platforms allow “people to observe lifestyles they may be unlikely to encounter offline” (p. 175). Although this could be viewed as a positive phenomenon in the sense that these platforms allow people to be exposed to other cultures or practises, social media outlets are largely dominated by Western culture, and images of white people and culture are often overly glorified, furthurley marginalizing minorities. Additionally, the OSN site users who are most predominantly popularized are those who are able to put on the best show for their audience. For example, the most popular Instagram accounts are either those of celebrities, or those of wealthy people who are able to afford to travel or to pay a professional photographer to take their pictures. Individuals want to maximize their ability to compete, and “this can include things such as the adoption of various fashion symbols or prestige goods designed to show status equal or superior to those with whom they compete” (p.276). These symbols are often those of luxury brands–something the average competitor cannot  People who do not necessarily have the means of having such lavish instagram accounts strive to look like their wealthy competitors, and will never be satisfied with the outcome.

“Any aspect of life in which social status is both disparate and observable has the potential to foster feelings of competition” (p.275). This is extremely apparent in the realm of OSN sites, as this competition not only promotes unhealthy outcomes as competitors are held to unrealistic outcomes, but also promotes misrepresentation of data. Although one issue linked to this is the misrepresentation of data, another, more widespread one, is that this sort of competition is unhealthy as competitors seek self validation through unrealistic portrayals of themselves and become distant from reality.

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