Facebook Really is a Materialistic World, New Research Asserts


According to new research published in Heliyon and given the rather lengthy title of ‘Materialists on Facebook: the self-regulatory role of social comparisons and the objectification of Facebook friends’, those with a materialistic nature are likely to be far more frequent and intense users of Facebook than those with a less possession-orientated outlook. They also tend to have more online friends, though they seem to view them in a less-than-ideal light.

By this I mean that rather than taking a healthy view of said connections, materialistic people attempt to ‘collect’ Facebook friends as a form of possession or validation, fuelled in part by a need to compare themselves with others and compete.

“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.
“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 order to reach this conclusion the research team gathered a pool of 242 Facebook users via campus-wide emails, flyers and Facebook invitations at Ruhr-University of Bochum, where the study was conducted. These participants ranged from 17-52 years old with a ratio of 54 males to 188 females, though the biggest part of the sample was represented by people between 17 and 28 years (90.1%), giving a mean age of 22.91 years.

Participants were then asked a series of questions in order to first gather demographical data-sets containing information regarding age, sex, highest degree of education, nationality, native language, relationship status, and university course. These were followed up by 62 items relating to Facebook use, social comparison orientation, materialism, and objectification and instrumentalisation via Facebook. For example respondents were asked to indicate how much they agree with statements such as “my life would be better if I owned certain things I don’t have” and “having many Facebook friends contributes to more success in my personal and professional life”, as reported by The Independent.

The team ultimately concluded that there is indeed an apparent link between high levels of materialism and frequent/intense use of the Facebook platform. Furthermore in a repeat of the experiment conducted with a second sample of 289 Facebook users, the researchers ended up with the same conclusion, which certainly adds to the validity of the findings.

Despite this Ozimek and his team are in no way suggesting that Facebook use is a negative act in general, rather they are simply preaching caution in the way we use it.

“It seems to us that Facebook is like a knife,” concluded Ozimek, “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.”

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