Social media is the only area that allows you to compare yourself to others as easily as it does. That’s not good for you.
Clothing, automobiles, travel, and followers: People with a materialistic mindset usually want more, especially more than others. Social Platforms give people many opportunities to compare themselves to others, making them prone to passive and addicted user behavior. This stresses them out, resulting in low life satisfaction. Researchers from Bochum uncovered this negative spiral, which causes materialists to be less satisfied, in an online poll of over 1,200 individuals. They published their findings in the journal Telematics and Informatics Reports on January 8, 2024.
Six questionnaires answered by over 1,200 people
Dr. Phillip Ozimek of the Faculty of Psychology at Ruhr University Bochum, Germany, led the study, which gathered 1,230 responses via online survey. Respondents had to utilize at least one social platform once a week to be eligible to participate. On average, participants reported spending little over two hours per day on social media.
The researchers used six different questionnaires to assess the extent to which participants had a materialistic attitude and tended to compare themselves to others, whether they used social networking actively or passively, whether they were addicted to social platforms, how stressed and satisfied they were with their lives.
Downward spiral set in motion
The data showed that a stronger materialistic approach goes hand in hand with a tendency to compare oneself with others.”
Dr. Phillip Ozimek, Faculty of Psychology, Ruhr University Bochum, Germany
This comparison is extremely simple to make on social media, primarily through passive use, i.e. by viewing the content uploaded by other users. Materialism and passive use have also been connected to the addictive use of social media. “By this we mean, for example, that users are constantly thinking about the respective channels and fear that they are missing out on something if they are not online,” explains Phillip Ozimek. This in turn leads to symptoms of poorer mental health, i.e. stress. The final link in the chain is reduced life satisfaction. “Social media is one of six stepping stones to unhappiness,” concludes Phillip Ozimek.
Social media attracts and breeds materialists
“Overall, the study provides further evidence that the use of social media is associated with risks, especially for people with a highly materialistic mindset,” says the psychologist. This is particularly worrying, because social networking can trigger and increase materialistic values, for example through (influencer) marketing. At the same time, the platforms attract materialists anyway, as they are a perfect way to satisfy many materialistic needs.
“It’s a good idea to be aware of the amount of time you spend on social media and to reduce it,” recommends Phillip Ozimek. He advises against giving up Social Media completely. “If you did, you’re likely to overcompensate.” The research team also suggests recording materialism and social media use in patients undergoing treatment for mental health disorders. “While these factors are often irrelevant, they can be a starting point for additional interventions that patients can try out at home.”
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