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The turn of the twenty-first
century has witnessed a significant change in the means of social interaction
and interpersonal communication between people (Jenkins et al, 2009). Much of this change is due to the rapid
increase in the use of websites and applications as a method of interaction
with those of similar interests and backgrounds; otherwise known as Social
Networking Sites (SNS) (Jenkins et
al, 2009). The power of social networking is exemplified by not only
its utility in connecting two or more people from across the globe, but also by
the fact that it can be used to acquire peer verification, fulfil one’s
narcissistic tendencies and may be even more importantly, allow those with social
anxiety somewhat meaningful interaction with their peers (Nadkarni
& Hofmann, 2012; Caplan, 2007). Indeed, motivation for using SNS is
suggested to stem from one’s desire for peer acceptance and being part of a
social group, often attempting to display virtuous attitudes to obtain
validation from others (Bulbulia & Schjoedt, 2010). In
contrast, narcissism seems to influence one’s reasoning for and subsequent
approach to SNS, using it to satisfy egocentrism (Buffardi & Campbell, 2010).
Thus, the primary aim of this essay is to examine
psychological literature, attempting to provide an explanation as to why people
use Social Networking Sites, by discussing a need for social interaction and
peer validation, narcissism and social anxiety.


It has long been proposed that
people require various forms of meaningful social interaction to maintain a
degree of happiness and wellbeing (Cohen & Wills, 1985). Indeed, social exclusion can be detrimental to one’s
emotional welfare, self-esteem, self-worth and sense of meaning (Stillman et al, 2009; Sapolsky, 2004). It might be said that SNS
is the preferred modern method of acquiring and maintaining interpersonal
relationships, as it provides effortless communication between two or more
individuals; anytime, anywhere. (Whiting & Williams, 2013). However, Since the depth and detail is often
limited with SNS (Twitter for instance, limits users to 140 characters per
message), questions still remain over how meaningful these methods of
communication are (Whiting & Williams, 2013).

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addition, research indicates a link between one’s level of self-worth and their
reception on SNS (Nadkarni & Hofmann, 2012). Validation via social media
(e.g. ‘Likes’ on Facebook) appears to instil confidence and reassure an individual’s
personal activities (Nadkarni & Hofmann, 2012; Westgate, 2014). Leary et al (1995) examined how self-esteem
may act as a measure for self-worth within social interaction. It was proposed
that self-esteem operated as a sociometer (a monitory mechanism), providing individuals
with an indicator to whether an action was positive or negative (e.g. positive
reception in the form of a ‘Like’ on Instagram). However, this theory does not
appear to be linear. Neutrality (no ‘Likes’) on an Instagram post can be seen
as being negative and therefore detrimental to an individual’s self-worth (Stefanone
et al, 2011). For example, a lack of
acknowledgement from peers could suggest disinterest and impartiality and
therefore could be perceived as rejection. In this context, neutrality would
very likely impact a person’s self-worth in a similar way to that of rejection
on SNS, especially if one is consistently being dismissed and/or ignored by
their peers when broadcasting (Stefanone et
al, 2011). 

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