Desire to Be Popular Drives Young People’s Social Media Use
Young adults use social networking sites (SNSs) to present themselves and to keep in touch with their friends. Many researchers have tried to find out what someone’s personality has to do with the use of SNS. This study in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking shows that the desire to appear popular plays a central role in SNS use of young adults.
- The desire to appear popular plays a key role in the use of social networking sites (SNS) among young adults. These sites allow users to present themselves in a manner that make them appear more popular to a large audience.
- Young adults who have a greater desire to be seen as popular by others disclose more personal information and are more socially active on SNS.
- However, they also have a lower self-esteem.
Which personality trait plays a key role in young adults’ SNS use?
Study 1: 250 young adults (mean age: 23.7 years). 34% were males. 69% used Hyves (a Dutch SNS) and 21.4% used Facebook. On average they spent 18.49 hours per week online.
Study 2: 198 university students (mean age: 21.4 years). 27% were males. They mostly used the SNS Facebook (50.5%) or Hyves (46%). On average they spent 19.29 hours per week online.
Study 1: The participants filled out an online survey containing questions about their behavior on SNS (e.g., leaving messages on their friends’ profiles and uploading pictures) and personality traits (e.g., desire to be seen as popular to others and feelings of fitting in with a group).
Study 2: In study 2 participants filled out the same online survey as in study 1, however, there were more personality traits included.
Facts and findings
- Both studies showed that the desire to appear popular played a central role in a wide range of behaviors on social networking sites, including their number of friends.
- This can be explained by the fact that SNSs are a perfect venue for young adults who feel a greater desire to appear popular to others. On these sites they can easily select profile pictures and express themselves in a manner that might make them more popular to a large audience.
- Young adults who had a greater desire to be seen as popular by others:
- left more messages on their friends’ profiles;
- edited their own profiles to appear more popular;
- uploaded a lot of pictures;
- disclosed more personal feelings to their online friends;
- had more online friends;
- perceived SNS’s as an important part of their daily life;
- and had lower self-esteem.
- Unexpectedly, young adults with lower self-esteem more often disclosed personal feelings to their online friends.
- An explanation is that young adults with lower self-esteem may disclose personal feelings online to receive positive feedback from their online friends.
- Critical note: this study does not allow for any conclusions about cause (personality traits) and effect (use of social networking sites). The results only show that there is an association between personality traits and using SNS.