Among young adults the use of social media is ubiquitous. However, posts from this population segment often include content that contains sexual or offensive material.
Researchers from the University of Plymouth investigated this behavior and discovered risky social media posts are not just due to impulsivity, but might be a deliberate strategy to fit in with the wider social media culture that makes people believe ‘it’s the right thing to do’.
Although current literature suggests impulsiveness is predictive of online risk-taking behaviors, the new study finds that additional factors may be at play.
Dr. Claire White explains that high self-monitoring — or adapting behavior in line with perceived social norms — was equally predictive of posting risky content.
White explains that this could mean that young people think it’s the best way to behave.
In the study, study of young adults from Britain and Italy, the researchers designed a risk exposure scale relating to potentially inappropriate images or texts, such as drug and alcohol use, sexual content, personal information, and offensive material.
They also evaluated people’s level of self-monitoring and impulsivity.
White said the findings are interesting and even counterintuitive as “it would be easy to assume that a high self-monitor would question their actions and adapt accordingly.”
“But the results show that high self-monitors are just as likely to post risky content as those in the study who are more impulsive, which suggests they think it’s not only OK to be risky — and potentially offensive — but that it’s actually the right thing to do.
“The only notable difference between the nationalities was that British students were more likely to post comments and images related to their alcohol and drug use on social media, whereas their Italian counterparts were more likely to post offensive content and personal information.
“This difference shows that culture as a whole seems to play a part in what type of content is shared.
“But the fact that the behaviors predicting risky online choices are the same for both nationalities suggests there’s a wider social media culture that encourages this type of risk-taking behavior.”
The full paper, entitled A Cross-Cultural Study of Risky Online Self-Presentation, is available to view now in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking. The research team consisted of Dr. White, Ph.D. student Clara Cutello, Dr. Michaela Gummerum, and Professor Yaniv Hanoch.
Source: University of Plymouth