Greater materialism and the need to compare oneself with others on social networks reduce overall well-being and contribute to those affected feeling unhappy.
In a new online study, experts from the Ruhr University Bochum (RUB) examined how materialism in social media is related to lower life satisfaction. The results can be read in the English-language journal “Telematics and Informatics Reports”.
What is materialism?
Social media offers many new opportunities to pursue and satisfy materialistic needs and goals. The researchers explain that materialism is the constant striving to increase and present one’s own possessions in the form of material and immaterial goods.
For example, it is easy for materialistic people to compare themselves to others on social media and accumulate digital possessions (in the form of friendships or followers), the team adds.
Effects on well-being
However, the results of the new study show that such materialistic use of social media can also have a negative impact on happiness and overall well-being under certain conditions.
For the study, the researchers conducted an online survey with a total of 1,230 participants to find out to what extent materialism in social media is associated with lower life satisfaction.
High social media usage
A basic requirement for participation was to use at least one social media channel at least once a week. In fact, it was shown that the participants said they spent an average of just over two hours per day using social media.
Participants were asked to complete six different questionnaires. These should help professionals determine the extent to which these individuals have materialistic attitudes and whether they tend to compare themselves to others on social media.
The questionnaires were also used to answer questions about whether the participants used social media actively or passively, whether there was an addiction to social media and how stressed or satisfied the participants were with their lives in general.
“We were able to use the data to show that a stronger materialistic orientation is associated with the tendency to compare oneself with others,” reports study author Phillip Ozimek in a press release.
Comparisons made easy on social media
According to the team, it is very easy to compare yourself with others on social media, especially through passive use, i.e. viewing content posted by other users. It has been shown that there is a connection between materialism, passive use of social media and addiction to social media.
How social media promotes stress
“By this we mean, for example, that those affected constantly think about the channels and fear that they will miss something if they are not online,” says Ozimek. This leads to stress or, in other words, to an impairment of mental health, which is ultimately associated with lower life satisfaction.
Overall, the study provides further evidence that social media use is associated with risks, particularly for people with a highly materialistic mindset, Ozimek adds.
This is particularly worrying because social media can not only trigger a materialistic attitude, but also reinforce it, for example through so-called influencer marketing. In addition, social media platforms generally attract materialists because they are ideal for satisfying many materialistic needs, he said.
Reduce social media usage
In general, it is advisable to be aware of how much time you spend on social media and to reduce this time, advises Ozimek. However, completely foregoing social media is not necessary and could also lead to subsequent overcompensation.
Based on the new findings, the team believes that both materialism and social media use should be considered in people being treated for mental health disorders. (as)