The turn of the twenty-firstcentury has witnessed a significant change in the means of social interactionand interpersonal communication between people (Jenkins et al, 2009). Much of this change is due to the rapidincrease in the use of websites and applications as a method of interactionwith those of similar interests and backgrounds; otherwise known as SocialNetworking Sites (SNS) (Jenkins etal, 2009).
The power of social networking is exemplified by not onlyits utility in connecting two or more people from across the globe, but also bythe fact that it can be used to acquire peer verification, fulfil one’snarcissistic tendencies and may be even more importantly, allow those with socialanxiety somewhat meaningful interaction with their peers (Nadkarni& Hofmann, 2012; Caplan, 2007). Indeed, motivation for using SNS issuggested to stem from one’s desire for peer acceptance and being part of asocial group, often attempting to display virtuous attitudes to obtainvalidation from others (Bulbulia & Schjoedt, 2010). Incontrast, narcissism seems to influence one’s reasoning for and subsequentapproach to SNS, using it to satisfy egocentrism (Buffardi & Campbell, 2010).
Thus, the primary aim of this essay is to examinepsychological literature, attempting to provide an explanation as to why peopleuse Social Networking Sites, by discussing a need for social interaction andpeer validation, narcissism and social anxiety. It has long been proposed thatpeople require various forms of meaningful social interaction to maintain adegree of happiness and wellbeing (Cohen & Wills, 1985). Indeed, social exclusion can be detrimental to one’semotional welfare, self-esteem, self-worth and sense of meaning (Stillman et al, 2009; Sapolsky, 2004). It might be said that SNSis the preferred modern method of acquiring and maintaining interpersonalrelationships, as it provides effortless communication between two or moreindividuals; anytime, anywhere. (Whiting & Williams, 2013). However, Since the depth and detail is oftenlimited with SNS (Twitter for instance, limits users to 140 characters permessage), questions still remain over how meaningful these methods ofcommunication are (Whiting & Williams, 2013).
Inaddition, research indicates a link between one’s level of self-worth and theirreception on SNS (Nadkarni & Hofmann, 2012). Validation via social media(e.g. ‘Likes’ on Facebook) appears to instil confidence and reassure an individual’spersonal activities (Nadkarni & Hofmann, 2012; Westgate, 2014). Leary et al (1995) examined how self-esteemmay act as a measure for self-worth within social interaction. It was proposedthat self-esteem operated as a sociometer (a monitory mechanism), providing individualswith an indicator to whether an action was positive or negative (e.
g. positivereception in the form of a ‘Like’ on Instagram). However, this theory does notappear to be linear. Neutrality (no ‘Likes’) on an Instagram post can be seenas being negative and therefore detrimental to an individual’s self-worth (Stefanoneet al, 2011). For example, a lack ofacknowledgement from peers could suggest disinterest and impartiality andtherefore could be perceived as rejection.
In this context, neutrality wouldvery likely impact a person’s self-worth in a similar way to that of rejectionon SNS, especially if one is consistently being dismissed and/or ignored bytheir peers when broadcasting (Stefanone etal, 2011).