A new study suggests online social networks can lower self-control among consumers. According to researchers, the loss of self-control can result in poor health and questionable economic decisions.
Paradoxically, experts believe social networks improve self-worth and confidence.
Using online social networks can have a positive effect on self-esteem and well-being, researchers said. However, these increased feelings of self-worth can have a detrimental effect on behavior.
Because consumers care about the image they present to close friends, social network use enhances self-esteem in users who are focused on close friends while browsing their social network.
The flush of increased self-esteem often leads a person to display less self-control after browsing a social network, said study authors Keith Wilcox (Columbia University) and Andrew T. Stephen (University of Pittsburgh).
The study is published in the Journal of Consumer Research.
Obviously, online social networks have dramatically changed a society’s landscape. Facebook, the largest, has over one billion active users.
In the new study, researchers wanted to explore if social networks influence daily consumer choices. Furthermore, they wanted to determine if the effect of social networks was associated with detrimental health behaviors.
Experts say a series of studies show Facebook usage lowers self-control for consumers who focus on close friends while browsing their social network.
Specifically, consumers focused on close friends are more likely to choose an unhealthy snack after browsing Facebook due to enhanced self-esteem.
Greater Facebook use was associated with a higher body-mass index, increased binge eating, a lower credit score, and higher levels of credit card debt for consumers with many close friends in their social network.
“These results are concerning given the increased time people spend using social networks, as well as the worldwide proliferation of access to social networks anywhere anytime via smartphones and other gadgets.
“Given that self-control is important for maintaining social order and personal well-being, this subtle effect could have widespread impact.
Researchers believe the impact of social networks is mainly a threat for adolescents and young adults (and future generations) who embrace social networks as part and parcel of daily activities.