In the paper “Competition and Information Deception in Online Social Networks” written by Church and Thambusany, it was argued that competition within online social networks (OSN) between people is an important factor that contributes to personal information deception (PID). Or rather, it was argued that such event happens for students enrolled at a state university in the southeastern United States while using Facebook. While this research paper brings up strong arguments and a formidable research model, the scope is so limited that it is hard to determine whether or not those models truly answer the research question of the paper (as stated in page 2 – “What are the antecedents of a desire for online competition, and how do competitive desires impact intentions to engage in personal information misrepresentation and refusal?”)
The first limitation is the selectiveness of the people taking the test. According to this paper, 499 students at a southeastern university of the United States were utilized, and the findings were not divided into subgroups. This means that there are multiple variables that were not covered while discussing the people that were tested for the argument, some of these are:
- Age: A common grouping to demonstrate different levels of maturity among people wasn’t tested, as all people were university students. It would be interesting to see whether or not people adopt different levels of competitive behavior online.
- Gender: Also a common way to group different types of people. While it was likely that the students were of different genders, there was no discussion of different levels of competition between males, females, and non-binary people.
- Education level: All of the students were attending the same university as undergraduate students. Therefore an interesting extension of this research would be to determine levels of competition from people that don’t have post-secondary studies, as well as people that have postgraduate studies.
The second limitation is that only one social network (Facebook) was used for this research. Different types of social networks are used differently. For example, in Snapchat, published photos and chats are immediately removed after the targeted receivers of information have received them or after a short, set period of time. Another example is LinkedIn, a social network catered for a professional environment. It would be interesting to identify the different levels of competition and personal information deception in different online social networks as an extension of this study.
An interesting comparison to make of this paper is one with Catherine Bateson’s ideals. It As we know from a previous research paper, her arguments point to her belief that cooperation is much better than competition and that there should preferably be no place for competition in human activity. Despite this research paper demonstrating that competition is a strong factor for the occurrence of personal information deception, it should be noted that there can be arguments for social media to be used in a cooperative manner. An example can be made by Facebook’s own business statement, which talks about Facebook as a means of communication between users as a means to bringing the world closer together. This creates a possible conflict of ideas that Bateson would have to consider in making her arguments, and it would be interesting to see her ideals about cooperation in an environment that is not innately competitive, but can be made competitive by its users.
In summary, while the Church and Thambusany’s research paper had strong arguments, their limited scope made them prone to lack credibility. There are multiple different extensions that can be made, including different subgroups of participants in the research and the use of different social networks.
(Image credits to ITPulse)