For people who are materialistic, Facebook acts much like a tool to help them achieve their goals – but, this often means comparing themselves with others, and treating friends as ‘digital objects.’
This is according to a new study, which surveyed hundreds of Facebook users on their social media activity, tendency toward materialism, and the objectification and instrumentalization of Facebook friends.
The researchers found that materialistic people use Facebook far more frequently than others, and with greater intensity, as a way to achieve goals and feel good about themselves.
‘Materialistic people use Facebook more frequently because they tend to objectify their Facebook friends – they acquire Facebook friends to increase their possession,’ said lead author Phillip Ozimek, from the Ruhr-University in Bochum, Germany.
‘Facebook provides the perfect platform for social comparisons, with millions of profiles and information about people.
‘And it’s free – materialists love tools that do not cost money!’
In the study, the team conducted an online survey of 242 Facebook users, asking participants to rate their agreements with statements such as ‘I’m posting photographs’ and ‘I often compare how I am doing socially,’ to ‘To what extent do you think Facebook friends are useful in order to attain your goals?’
They then conducted another survey with a different sample, this time of 289 Facebook users.
The second group contained fewer students than the first, and more males.
Responses from both samples suggested materialists were more likely to compare their own lives with others’.
They also had more Facebook friends, and often objectified and instrumentalized their Facebook friends.
The findings, the researchers say, highlight how social media platforms can be used in vastly different ways depending on the user.
HOW MATERIALISTIC ARE YOU?
Materialistic people tend to have more friends, compare their lives to others, use their friends as ‘digital objects,’ the researchers found.
Participants were asked to rate their agreement to the following statements
‘I’m posting photographs’ – to assess Facebook activity
‘I often compare how I am doing socially’ – to assess social comparison orientation
‘My life would be better if I owned certain things I don’t have’ – to assess materialism
‘Having many Facebook friends contributes more success in my personal and professional life’ – to assess objectification of Facebook friends
‘To what extent do you think Facebook friends are useful in order to attain your goals?’ – to assess instrumentalization of Facebook friends
For the most part, they say people likely use sites like Facebook to feel good and help reach their goals.
But, some could use them with more malicious intentions.
‘Social media 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 said.
‘We found that materialists instrumentalize their friends, but they also attain their goal to compare themselves to others.
‘It seems to us that Facebook is like 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.’