Social media engagement style may be linked to perceived social connectedness – new research

Newswise – Aston University researchers have developed a new experimental task involving a mock social networking site that categorizes people into three different ways of using social media – passive, reactive and interactive.

Under the direction of Dr. Daniel Shaw and Dr. Charlotte Pennington of Aston University’s School of Psychology, the new results also suggest that interactive users reported greater feelings of social connectedness than passive or reactive users.

Despite the abundance of research on the psychological effects of using social networking sites (SNS), conflicting results have prevented firm conclusions from being drawn. While some studies concluded that social media use was associated with increased social connectedness and reduced loneliness, others reported impairments in loneliness and well-being from greater use of such platforms.

In their new work, published in the journal PLOS ONE, the researchers administered the SocialNetworkingSiteBehaviorTask (SNSBT) online to 526 people, who also completed questionnaires about their levels of loneliness, sense of belonging, social connectedness, online social capital, and questions about their answered Facebook usage and friendship network.

The SNSBT grouped users into three discrete groups based on the number of times they clicked “next,” “like,” or “share” on 90 images presented to them on the mock SNS. On average, passive users, about 39% of study participants, clicked “next” the most often (on 85% of images). Reactive users, 35.4% of the study, were the most likely to click either Next (59% of the time) or Like (36% of the time). Interactive users, 25.7% of participants, clicked like (51% of the time) or share (20% of the time) the most.

Analysis of the data revealed that, on average, interactive users had more Facebook friends, spent more time on Facebook, and reported greater feelings of social connectedness and social capital than passive or reactive SNS users. However, this study could not determine whether there is a causal or directional relationship between these factors. The researchers plan further work in this area.

The authors concluded that the simple SNSBT tool they developed, which is now publicly available, could help researchers quantitatively distinguish between different SNS usage styles and overcome the limitations of self-report data, thereby enabling future research in the field of cyberpsychology is improved.

dr Daniel Shaw said: “This study introduces a new tool that allows researchers to measure different styles of interaction on social networking platforms and shows that our style of interaction may be more important to our psychological well-being than the time we spend on social media .”

dr Charlotte Pennington added: “People who used our platform more interactively reported greater feelings of social connectedness and social capital compared to those who showed more reactive or passive behavior. Our team has developed the first mock social networking site that can be used to measure natural usage styles, free from the ethical concerns that arise when people log into their own phones.”