This weeks article :”Competition and Information Deception in Online Social Networks” was written by E. Mitchell Church and Ravi Thambusamy, professors in the department of Management and Decision Sciences at Coastal Carolina University. It is a study, trying to examine “the role of competition in determining intentions toward personal information deception among users of online social network sites.” The audience of this article is quite broad. It includes almost all users of social media, but particularly researchers and social scientists of computer information systems and online networks. The overall purpose of this paper is trying to find out whether competition causes social media users to be deceitful.
Never before in the history of our species has so much personal information and data been collected and stored. Every social network user provides personal information to present oneself in a certain way- mostly in the best way possible. In our modernist society, social networks have gained an enormous amount of power. Social networks are used to earn wages, to build relationships, to do research, to find criminals, to entertain oneself, to learn and study and much, much more. In many cases being part of a social network is not an entirely voluntary decision. Schools, Universities, work, clubs and hobbies often have social network pages and require one to participate online.
The moment a user signs up for a social network, such as facebook- personal information is required. Without personal information, one couldn’t verify his or her identity and the created profile wouldn’t be of any use. Now, because social media plays such an important role in our modern society and especially in younger generations, there is a strong need to present oneself as good as possible. On instagram and facebook, you can follow your friends life and see what is going on in their daily lives. Cool and exciting posts get many likes and profiles with a lot of such content have a lot of followers. Likes, followers and views play a big role in the virtually created hierarchy of social networks. To get high status one has to get to the top of this hierarchy. This individuals struggle for solo success in social networks is a competition.
Now, unlike in real life where it is often difficult to hide the “reality” of who you are and how you look and how much you earn…etc, presenting yourself on social media how you want, e.g beautiful, smart and rich, seems to be much easier. Posting a picture on instagram with a fancy car, editing pictures of your body to show defined muscles and posting about the latest novel you have read – all create a new online version of your ‘real life’ character. Sometimes this character is true to who you are, but often times it is not.
The research done by Church provides support for the hypothesis that “Perceived status benefits are positively related to the desire for online competition on online social networks”. Now, while the research provides limitations – there are some problems that haven’t been addressed. The article mentions that some people might hide information for privacy reasons but doesn’t really concern itself too much with this quite important confounding variable. Also, deceptions, even when they provide perceived status benefits, are not always deceitful – but can e.g. be meant humorous. When someone updates their personal profile on facebook by changing their job-status from working at McDonalds to working for Superman, it might increase his status to an extend, however it is not meant to be deceitful and therefore doesn’t necessarily involve competition at all.
As https://mschandorf.ca/author/noahcharron8450/ pointed out correctly, there are also some other flaws in their mythology. In the research “25% of respondents were male while 75% were female“. Having three times more female participants might significantly impact the validity of the conducted research. There might be significant gender differences in social network use, deception on social media platforms as well as competitiveness in general.
Due to the complex and ambiguous nature of competition, conducting explicit research about it seems quite difficult.
In this course we have covered many fields in which competition plays a big role, however there are many more that could give us very useful insight into competition and the question about whether it is rather useful or detrimental to society. As I mentioned before, looking at competition through a philosophical lens might provide a very interesting and useful perspective.
“Unity is strength… when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.” (Mattie Stepanek)