Church and Thambusamy offer a new model into why people will project themselves in a certain fashion on social media. Their study approaches the concept of personal information deception (PID) on social media. It goes without saying that there are many individuals who will either withhold personal information, or purposefully lie about said information on their online social networks (OSN). While traditional thinkers have linked this phenomenon to the concerns of privacy, Church and Thambusamy’s approach is to determine whether interpersonal competitions on social media might influence PID. My argument is that while their theory has credibility, the way they test this theory is simply outdated.
One example of OSN that the article explores as a case study is Pokemon GO. Here they highlight the heightened competition promoted by the game that has promoted deception and even illegal activities in order for people to get ahead of one another. This case study has both its merits and weaknesses. Firstly, Pokemon GO is moreso an online game than an OSN, therefore it is a poor choice of case study to be used. However, there are many instances of extreme competitiveness in the game promoted by rivalries between users, including some individuals who have attempted to break into military installations in order to capture valuable in-game rewards.
The main case study that the authors use are 499 university students from the United States, and their relation specifically with Facebook. This is where some of the flaws in methodology come into effect.
First, they do not clearly define what “used” means in relation to OSN. Facebook was chosen because it was the most “used”. This might be active daily use of Facebook, or simply the existence of one’s account.
Second, they do not explore the effects of gender on behaviour within social media. 25% of respondents were male while 75% were female, which may carry an error into the findings of the study.
The third flaw is one that I use personal experience to justify. Having been in the 7th grade when Facebook first became popular, it is my experience that in Western culture, Facebook has fallen out of popular use among the youth. Recent revealings concerning how Facebook is run has also called into question the security of your information on that website. With the rise of its main competitor, Instagram, I would not pick Facebook as the choice OSN used by youth today. While many people still have Facebook accounts, I have found now that this is usually for the purposes of contact information in order to reach out to others for professional or semi-professional reasons. I have also noticed people are much more inclined to withhold information on Facebook for privacy reasons -rather than intercompetition- than they were ten years ago.
Finally, their limit to only using students from the South-East United States will invariably present different results than other demographics around the world, which is also highlighted by the authors in the paper.
While I believe the authors have a great theory, I think that their choice for case studies needs fine-tuning. It might be better to explore their theory within Instagram, where individuals are less likely to use OSN for professional or semi-professional reasons as opposed to Facebook. There is also a smaller demand for personal information on Instagram, and thus privacy might be less of a factor concerning the phenomenon of PID. To deny that interpersonal competition influences PID is a naive statement, but to say that this study is is an effective argument for that might be misleading.
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