Is Sharing Caring? Initial Expectations of Social Media

“Sharing is caring.” We’ve all grown up hearing this hackneyed phrase to encourage children to offer toys to others and push siblings to give up the TV remote. In regards to social media, is sharing always caring?

5 examples of oversharing:

  1. I feel #blessed that my parents don’t have Facebook accounts. No embarrassing childhood photos on my birthday.
  2. Everyone has a crazy aunt/uncle. I do too. Where would we be without the “Untag” feature?
  3. At college, sleep deprivation + parties = Snapchats at 4am and late-night subtweets. Will I miss this when I graduate?
  4. My medical knowledge has expanded immensely thanks to TMI posts. And yes, that does look like it needs stitches.
  5. Hourly selfies with your BF 4 ever?

I established my Facebook account as an eighth grader. I’m grateful that social media was not a part of my life before then, leaving my awkward phase largely undocumented. Over time, I’ve added the use of phrases like “#NoFilter” and “Snapstory” to my vocabulary. Although I try to limit my usage of social networks, I spend a few minutes each day reviewing my Instagram feed, Pinterest boards, and Facebook NewsFeed.

In 2014, I spent the month of June abroad in Italy. International data was extremely expensive so I could only access the Internet when restaurants or hostels had working WiFi. Most days, I didn’t feel the need to ev23BB587E00000578-2860364-image-a-9_1417686944016en carry my cell phone and my usage of social networks decreased significantly. I was able to make meaningful relationships with my classmates and professors and I look back on the experience as one of the best months to date. I do have to wonder if I would have had the same experience if I was on my phone as frequently as I am at Boston College. It’s heartbreaking to see a whole table of students at Lower all on their phones instead of chatting during dinner, but I know I have been guilty of this offense, too. The distraction of social media can have a negative impact on face-to-face communication.

Beyond impacting our relationships in real life, what effects do social networks have on our emotions and well-being? Constant exposure to the digital personas of others can alter individual self-esteem. Every Instagram looks more glamorous than the actual picture, and viewers never know the actual context of the image. Essentially, we compare our “behind-the-scenes” moments to everyone else’s highlight reels. Facebook and other social networks are often locations to boast recent accomplishments.

In January 2012, Facebook conducted a psychological study to determine if emotions across social networks are contagious. The study manipulated the number of positive or negative posts that were displayed on the NewsFeed. In the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers determined:

These results indicate that emotions expressed by others on Facebook influence our own emotions.

Nicholas Christakis, a sociologist and physician, studied the obesity epidemic and applied his research to the connections made between people on social networking sites. Christakis asserts that social networks are living things, where emotional contagion can spread. Furthermore, he found a link between genetics and the architecture of social networks. In his TED talk, “The Hidden Influence of Social Networks”, Christakis states that 46% of the variation in the number of friends an individual has can be explained by his or her genes. The TED talk concludes with the idea that networks are fundamentally good and are established where benefits outweigh costs.

When looking at social media, is it necessary to consider the complexity involved? Individuals act differently in groups than they do in solitary units and the collective whole of a network like Facebook is fundamentally different from the sum of all individuals logged in. From my own personal experience, social media is an entertaining and efficient way to stay in touch with others. On the other hand, it can be a distraction from meaningful relationships. I’m excited to see how different companies leverage social media and how ideas spread across networks for promotion and advertising.

Is sharing caring? I don’t know yet, and I don’t believe a final answer exists. Social networks and digital business will continue to adapt and innovate. More to come!

3 comments

  1. acoulombe13 · ·

    Lauren, what made me click on this blog post was the title/picture you chose– it’s spot on with how I (and I’m sure many other people) feel about social media. The 5 examples you used were relatable, humorous, and (sadly) spot on. The psychological approach you took was something I found very interesting and also something I think of many times when using social media. Like you said, “Individuals act differently in groups than they do in solitary units and the collective whole of a network like Facebook is fundamentally different from the sum of all individuals logged in.”– It leaves me thinking about how authentic social media is and if it’s not, if it ever will be. I loved reading your insights and look forward to your next blog!

  2. Reading your blog, Lauren, I couldn’t help but be reminded of my own experience studying abroad in Italy too (though I went quite a few years before you). At first I thought that our ability to connect with others was probably helped by the centralized school culture that you depend upon when you study abroad, but to your point, you do see students on phones everywhere on the BC campus. Going one step further, you would think being abroad would make you miss your comfortable life at home and you would spend even more time on social media checking in on friends and family back home. Thanks for sharing your psychological perspective on this interesting topic that could be further explored in a later blog post!

  3. Lauren, I really like how you framed your expectations around the question of whether or not “sharing is caring.” I think that the notion of sharing really does become interesting when it comes into the social sphere thanks to the instance of “oversharing” that you so nicely commented on. In a way, sharing can be burdensome (and, sometimes, embarrassing — thanks to aunts and uncles on fb), but what I find really interesting in the study of social media is how the sharing of ideas and knowledge is now more fluid than ever before. Looking forward to reading more of your funny and enjoyable posts!

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