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Is faking conformity key to success on social media?

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Is faking conformity key to success on social media?

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I’ve written a bit recently on the way information, and especially misinformation, spreads throughout our social networks.  Central to many studies into this area is the crucial role influencers play in the spread of this information.  How do we become influential though?

A new paper suggests that stereotypes can play a big role in our rise to stardom, with it going as far as to suggest that many influential people are actually faking it in order to better conform to this stereotype.

The researchers explored celebrity users on sites such as Facebook and Last.fm and found that ‘social norms’ were incredibly important on both sites.  This peer pressure would heavily influence the behaviour of users, even those regarded as the cream of the crop.

“Although both of these social networks differ in the manner in which users are able to share content, we noticed that there was a heavy focus on maintaining a profile that is as natural as possible,” said Suvi Uski of Aalto University. “We also encountered a widespread disdain by users for what is known as profile tuning, or intentionally sharing content designed to depict the user in a false way.Sharing personal content online on social network sites has become a common activity for increasing numbers of people around the world.

“But what our study reveals is a common belief that sharing content in a way that is considered to be excessive, attention seeking or somehow portrays that individual in a fake manner is judged extremely negatively.”

So in other words, faking it is bad, providing it’s quite clearly faking it.  The key then is to manufacture an image of being as authentic as possible, without being too authentic.

“While social norms required individuals to be real in their sharing behavior, presenting oneself in the right way through sharing often necessitated an element of faking,” added co-author Airi Lampinen.

Interestingly, this was especially prevalent on Last.fm where it was found people would listen to particular songs specifically because of the image doing so would create, rather than any particular taste for that music.  It was all about the image.

On Facebook, where there is a greater degree of control over what is shared, caution was exercised by users wary of sharing content that may be perceived negatively by their followers.  All of which renders our desire to be seen as authentic rather challenging, and being natural is far less natural than we perhaps imagined.

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