Social Media May Be Doing Emotional Damage to Users – and Making Them Vulnerable to Ads

Thursday, 27 September 2018 - 1:50PM
Technology
Thursday, 27 September 2018 - 1:50PM
Social Media May Be Doing Emotional Damage to Users – and Making Them Vulnerable to Ads
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Pixabay Composite
If you thought CGI social media celebrities were a troubling new trend, consider the theory that social media encourages 'social exclusion,' a phenomenon that drains users' emotional and mental energy and makes them more vulnerable to ad messaging, especially on Facebook. That's what a new study from the University at Buffalo is claiming, and the authors say it's a major problem with social media as a platform.

For clarification, 'social exclusion' is just what it sounds like—being excluded from activities within one's social group. This could be intentional, but the new study says that social media opens up the potential for it to happen unintentionally—and constantly. For example, if you get home and log onto Facebook to find that your local friends are already in the midst of planning to go somewhere without you, either in a group chat or a Timeline post, that feeling that you've been left out is the consequence of social exclusion. According to the study, social media offers an incredibly effective way to create these feelings.

The second claim the study makes is that dealing with these feelings of exclusion drains your mental energy, which means you have less mental resources to make intelligent decisions in other parts of your life. This means that you're vulnerable to "stimuli" like ads, which social media platforms like Facebook use to generate their revenue. According to Michael Stefanone, one of the authors on the study: "Given Facebook's annual ad revenue, I think it's a conversation worth having, that regular, benign and common use of this platform can lead to short-term inhibition of intelligent thought."

The study involved 194 participants, which were divided into a control group and experiment group. The results found that those who were exposed to social exclusion on social media have higher incidences of negative emotions, which made them vulnerable to advertising. For Stefanone, the implications are clear. "I think the most important thing we all have to remember is to think carefully about our relationship with these corporations and these social networking platforms," he says. "They do not have our best interests in mind."

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