Social media offers us a range of benefits and opportunities to empower ourselves in a variety of ways. The world is becoming increasingly interconnected through the wonders of the social media and as a result, we now live in a society where access to Facebook, YouTube, Twitter – and loads of other social networking platforms – is virtually everywhere. It has become so popular that it seems that physically interacting to others seems so outdated, but what’s the psychology behind social media?
The likes, comments and posts we share on social media can often seem inconsequential, but they matter. They tap into the core that makes us human, our addictions, desires, anxieties and joys.
Do more with Twitter
I use social media, mainly Twitter, a lot. It is magic, almost like a childhood dream. It allows me to interact with interesting people – authors, celebrities, politicians, and of course those psychologists that I look up to.
On Twitter, there’s no shortage of wonderful people with insightful things to say. But we don’t just use Twitter to listen to these people, research has confirmed that people use microblogging to talk about their daily activities and to seek, or share information. Twitter is one alternative means for less assertive students to be able to express themselves in and outside of the classroom.
It allows them to gather their thoughts and voice them through writing before committing to their expression. Twitter also promotes social connections among students. It can be used to enhance communication building and critical thinking.
Denise Domizi used Twitter in a graduate seminar requiring students to post weekly tweets to extend classroom discussions. Students reportedly used Twitter to connect with content and other students. Additionally, students found it ‘to be useful professionally and personally’.
Since it was launched in 2004, Facebook has become a popular means of communication. It is a never-ending virtual party filled with viral videos, latest holidays, wedding announcements, baby showers and adopted kittens. But why do people use Facebook?
The need to belong and the need for self-presentation are the two primary motivating factors that drive us to use it. It makes sense – after all everyone craves for a sense of belonging and Facebook provides us with that in a virtual sense. Or as Aaron Balick elegantly puts it:
‘The notion of “liking” on Facebook is akin to an ego need. The ego, as a rule, seeks to be liked and admired.’
Endless videos on YouTube
With scores of funny videos, music, travels, documentaries and tutorials, YouTube is a fun way to kill time and educate yourself. A 2009 study explored whether motives and individual differences predicted viewing videos on YouTube and sharing videos with others. Consistent with uses and gratifications assumptions, motives and individual differences differentially predicted viewing and sharing behaviours. This is why some people look for the best free YouTube downloader.
It has been revealed that while people watch videos on YouTube for some of the same reasons identified in studies of TV viewing, there is a distinctly social aspect to YouTube use that reflects its social networking aspects. Another study has found that YouTube increased participation, personalisation and productivity.
YouTube also improved students’ digital skills and provided the opportunity for peer learning and problem-solving.
There are many studies that have identified the negative aspects of social media ranging from narcissism, usage by extremist groups, to cyberbullying. But for the meantime, let’s just dwell on the more positive side. Closely linked to collective self-esteem, research has shown that social media can increase our individual self-esteem. This is common with teenagers who would normally find face-to-face situations daunting and uncomfortable. This is great as it means that social media can increase social capital for many teenagers who may feel unable to make friends.
Are social media good for society? It is a perennial topic which continues to divide opinion: some people think it’s a useful tool while others are worried about the negative impact it has on people’s lives. So let’s just be aware of how we all use it so that we positively benefit from using them.
Tommy Williamson did his degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. He has an ongoing interest in mental health and well-being.