Insta-Worthy?

One thing we have repetitively heard in this course is that “competition is ubiquitous”. As mentioned in Hanan Dudin’s post, social networking sites are no exception and have been a significant part of our lives since we are constantly on them every day. However, the form of competition on social networking sites could be slightly different from what we experience in real life because, as the research paper “Competition and Information Deception in Online Social Networks” explains, there are some features unique to social networking sites that inspire competitive feelings; it provides platforms where people can observe lifestyles that they wouldn’t encounter otherwise in real life and editing functions which users can easily use to change their appearance. Then it brings up one question, “What drives us to be competitive online and what does it manifest as?”

The research paper “Competition and Information Deception in Online Social Networks” by Church and Thambusamy answers this question by exploring the relationship between competition and the intentions towards personal information deception (PID) among users of online social network (OSN) sites. After pointing at how past literature only focused on privacy and security as the factors that trigger PID, they establish their argument based on Bagozzi’s framework of appraisals, emotions, and intentions, arguing that appraisals of status and hedonic benefits, as well as competitive norms,  lead to the desire for online competition, which manifests as PID, misrepresentation intention and refusal intention. They establish a hypothesis of each factor in the theoretical model and state that factors other than refusal model has positive relationship. They test this by surveying 499 university student, and its result supports everything but hypothesis 3, which is about the positive relationship between competitive social norms and online competition.

The result also shows that out of three appraisal factors, perceived status benefits, which are defined as “perceptions of increased status available within an OSN (Church and Thambusamy, 277)” had the strongest effect. Although this reading does not directly mention social comparison, this greatly reminded me of social comparison which was examined in Garcia’s reading. I think that status exists because we evaluate ourselves by comparing ourselves to others, which fosters comparison concern, the desire to outperform others, in this case by gaining status. Therefore, three factors of appraisals may actually have comparison concern as for why that drives to competitiveness.

Church and Thambusamy’s main argument is that people manipulate information within their social profiles out of the desire for interpersonal competition. They further elaborate that “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” (Church and Thambusamy, 274). This is maybe why those words like insta-worthy, intagrammable, and instagenic ( which means a picture that is worth posting on Instagram) have been created because people try to impress others. However, I do not think that it is a healthy competition. There are some people who try to post luxurious things to just show that they are having a better life than others but end up being financially difficult by doing that. It does not have to be this extreme but body image is also something that can be caused by the competition online; people are consistently exposed to people who edit their pictures to look perfect. Considering the relationship between PID and competition shown in this reading and these negative effect of online competition, we should consider the ways we can prevent this unhealthy competition. 

Image credit to https://www.rd.com/culture/instagram-shelfie-photo/

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