Is Facebook for the Greedy?

New research has found that people who are considered “materialistic” tend to use Facebook much more frequently than people who are less interested in possessions.
Greg Kelly
Published: December 06, 2017
If you’re someone who places a high value on personal possessions, you’re much more likely to use Facebook.

This is according to a group of European researchers who found that “materialistic people” tend to use the world’s leading social networking website intensely and frequently. The researchers also believe the website is central to how frequent users feel about themselves and the ability to reach their goals. As of November, Facebook had more than 2 billion monthly active users and the website reported $27 billion in revenue for 2016.

The report, published in Heliyon (an open-access journal that publishes original research across disciplines), showed that “materialistic people see and treat their Facebook friends as ‘digital objects,’” and they have significantly more Facebook friends than do people who are less interested in material possessions. They also have a greater need to use Facebook to compare themselves with others.

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The Social Online Self-Regulation Theory is the phrase the study authors developed to explain their research. “Materialistic people use Facebook more frequently because they tend to objectify their Facebook friends – they acquire Facebook friends to increase their possession,” said Philip Ozimek, MSc, the study’s lead author and a research fellow at Ruhr-University Bochum in Germany.

To arrive at their conclusions, the researchers queried nearly 250 Facebook users about their:
  • Facebook activity (e.g., “I’m posting photographs.”)
  • Social comparison orientation (e.g., “I often compare how I am doing socially.”)
  • Materialism (e.g., “My life would be better if I owned certain things I don’t have.”)
  • Objectification of Facebook friends (e.g., “Having many Facebook friends contributes more success in my personal and professional life.”).
  • Instrumentalization of Facebook friends (e.g., “To what extent do you think Facebook friends are useful in order to attain your goals?”)

According to the results, the main explanation for the Facebook activity-materialism link is that “materialists display a stronger social comparison orientation, have more Facebook friends and objectify and instrumentalize their friends more intensely.”

In a second study, with more male and fewer student participants, the investigators reached the same conclusions: For materialists, social media can be a tool for achieving important life goals and Facebook shows them how far away they are from their goal of wealth.

In defense of social media, Ozimek explained that these platforms “are not that different from other activities in life – they are functional tools for people who want to attain goals in life, and some might have negative consequences for them or society.”

Ozimek compared Facebook to a knife: “It can be used for preparing yummy food or it can be used for hurting a person. In a way, our model provides a more neutral perspective on social media.”

 
Greg Kelly is a long-time health care writer and editor. He has written for the Physician’s Money DigestTM, Dentist’s Money DigestTM and Veterinarian’s Money DigestTM websites. He lives at the Jersey Shore and welcomes comments at gregkelly@monmouthbeachlife.com.

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