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Why Do We Compare on Social Media?

by Benjamin on September 15th, 2016

In our latest article, Silvia Knobloch-Westerwick and I investigate how mood motivates social comparisons on social networking sites. Previously, we observed patterns of self-enhancing downward social comparison when people were in negative mood states and the comparison targets involved aggregated cues (i.e., crowdsourced ratings). In our new article at Human Communication Research, we report two experiments that show that the presence of vivid profile content (e.g., images or photographic indicators) or the need to affiliate with a group may lead to more upward patterns of self-enhancement. This involves latching onto, or assimilating, with more attractive or more successful peers. These peers can be inspiring, or we can bask in their reflected glory.

In a related project, Jaap Ouwerkerk and I recently published a study where we illustrate how different personality traits are associated with the motive to “hate-follow” or befriend people online who are sources of downward social comparison and schadenfreude. We also identified motives for inspiration-driven friending, insecurity-driven friending, and more sociable friending. You can find the 40-item measure on my “Scales” page, or over at Social Media + Society (open-access).



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