E. Mitchell Church and Ravi Thambusamy’s journal article, “Competition and Information Deception in Online Social Networks”, propose that consumers’ intentions toward personal information deception (PID) depend on their levels of competition in respect to other online social network (OSN). Church and Thambusamy suspect that there are several variables which may lead to a competitive online space: such as, the users assessment of available status and hedonic benefits, and the current social norms around online competition. Moreover, the authors mention their object is to support these proposed variables by researching what causes the behavior of PID amongst university students who are Facebook users.
Using Bagozzi’s framework of self-regulation of attitudes and behavior, Church and Thambusamy’s theoretical development begins by discussing the ways in which competitive norms, status benefits, and hedonic benefits all lead to a desire for online competition, thus leading to PID. Their research was survey-based and used to support their theoretical framework. This included 499 students participating self-reporting their results of composite reliability and average variance extracted for all constructs. The results showed that online competition is in fact dependent on the user’s perception of hedonic and status benefits inherent to many social media platforms.
The conclusions made by Church and Thambusamy indicate that social media has an inherent effect on the user. This effect increases the feelings of hedonic benefits and status benefits on the user, thus increasing their desire for competition – which they otherwise would not have. The levels of interpersonal competition vary depending on the users desire to manipulate their online persona. These levels may vary because lots of users perceive social media as a place for increasing ones status but also a place to having fun.
Towards the end, the authors discuss Facebook’s decision to add a “dislike” button to accompany the infamous “like” button. They say it will likely foster more competition, however this could be easily tested on YouTube or Redditt which are networks that incorporate both a “like” button and a “dislike” button. In my personal use of YouTube especially, the “dislike” button tends to be used in a negative way. Most YouTube creators would generally interpret a low like:dislike ratio as harmful to their success as well as a degrading message from their audience. This highly impacts the mental health of those creators. In fact, there is a known term for this coined by content creators who “burnout” after many months of posting due to the intense stress and harm they endure just by posting. This could be caused by their constant desire to “fix” their online personality and gain more “likes”. Additionally, this aligns with Church and Thambusamy’s conclusions that misrepresentation of personal information is caused by an increased desire for online competition.
Overall, despite the usefulness of the authors conclusions to the academic community, it is important to consider deterioration of one’s mental health as a major factor of ones desire to be competitive online, as @1thinktwice‘s discussion of unhealthy competition online illustrated. Competition online is found in almost every post, in every forum, and in every YouTube video, and for the one posting the content, it can be very unhealthy to read thousands of negative comments. Furthermore, it was proven that feelings of hedonic benefits and status benefits on the user led to more competition, but now there needs to be a discussion as to how the users’ mental health may lead to an increase in their desire for a higher status and/or hedonic benefits. If one is experiencing depression, or online “burnout”, would they be more likely to engage in higher levels of misrepresentation of information to their online audience?
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