The Impact of Online Competition

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E. Mitchell Church and Ravi Thambusamy’s paper, “Competition and Information Deception in Online Social Networks”, looks at the role of competition that results in dishonest behaviour on the internet. They describe such behaviour as PID, or personal information deception on OSN (online social network) websites. This topic is incredibly relevant today, with the rise of online celebrities on social media platforms such as Instagram and Youtube. People who partake in PID behaviour lie about aspects of their lives on social media – be it their appearance, lifestyle, or financial well-being. This paper looks at why we compete in social media, suggesting that “competitive desires manifest online when individuals experience valence between themselves and what they see as the success of other network users”. Church and Thambusamy tested these ideas by implementing a survey-based research plan with undergraduate participants. 

            This paper, while relevant to a wide scope of individuals, was written in a manner inaccessible to most outside of its direct field. As this was published in the Journal of Computer Information Systems, one can assume that their target audience is those well-versed in computer information systems. However, as someone outside of this field who finds this information significant, it was very difficult to understand the complicated research procedures and technical jargon used in this paper. When taking into account the modern phenomenon of online celebrities, it’s more important than ever that information about dishonesty online is made accessible to the general public to consume. While the online culture of promoting oneself through use of staged photographs and editing is running strong, this paper doesn’t address the dangers that can result from such dishonesty online. Those who view these fake posts are presented with an ideal person that does in fact, not exist. However, PID by complete strangers can have a huge influence on the self-worth and confidence of those who view it. Comparison to online influencers can leave individuals feeling badly about themselves, when what they are comparing themselves to isn’t even real. The impacts of PID on the mental health of both the dishonest person and the viewer is something worthy of being explored farther.

            In her response to this paper, Michaela Sousa brought up Socrates in the Nelson in Dawson paper. The paper mentions that Socrates didn’t have a competitive classroom and didn’t place his students on a grading scale. However, as mentioned in class, Nelson and Dawson don’t mention that Socrates’ students had already won a kind of competition in order to be in the class. Not only were they certified as intelligent, they also came from wealthy families, and of course were male. They were also undoubtedly catered upon by slaves. It is easy to preach the superiority of Socrates’ schooling system when one doesn’t take into account the scenario in which these teachings took place. It is also easy to say that yes, people do lie online in order to increase their social standing and “win” the competition of online popularity – but what is the fallout? How does this effect people who view these fake, unattainable lifestyles? What happens to those who are impacted by these phoney online displays? While it is important to know why people lie online, perhaps it is even more important to look into the impact of these lies on those people and those around them.

1 Comment

  1. Thanks for boiling down a difficult article for the rest of us to read! 🙂 What impact have you noticed online comparison has had on your own life? For myself, I do think that it has affected me but never very deeply. My social media habits tend to be pretty lowkey as I either only follow people I know in real life or who have similar interests to me. I don’t often expose myself to social media of those who are much more rich or happy than I am. Do you think comparison is worse when we look at those who are much better off like that, or does it still affect us even when we are just looking at the profiles belonging to our friends and family?


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