Follow Me: Exploring the Effect of Personality and Stranger Connections on Instagram Use

Follow Me: Exploring the Effect of Personality and Stranger Connections on Instagram Use

Melanie Keep (The University of Sydney, Lidcombe, Australia) and Krestina L. Amon (The University of Sydney, Lidcombe, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/IJVCSN.2017010101
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Recent research suggests that the relationship between personality and Facebook use is mediated by the need for belonging and self-presentation. It is uncertain, however, whether these relationships also hold for other social networking sites (SNSs), for example, Instagram. This image-sharing platform provides a unique opportunity for fulfilling belonging and self-presentation needs. The online survey was completed by 404 participants (80% female, age range 18-63 years, Median = 21 years). As hypothesised, personality (extraversion and agreeableness) predicted belonging behaviours (liking, commenting, and tagging others), and extraversion and neuroticism predicted self-presentation behaviours (likelihood of posting on particular days, and at specific times of day) on Instagram. Stranger connections moderated the relationship between agreeableness and commenting behaviours. Findings highlight the need to explore SNSs beyond Facebook and consider the role of audience and personality on SNS behaviours.
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The ubiquity of online social network sites (SNSs) is evidenced in the 1.01 billion daily active Facebook users (Facebook, 2015), 400 million Instagram users (Instagram, 2015), 1 billion YouTube users (YouTube, 2015) and 320 million monthly active Twitter users (Twitter, 2015). SNSs, allow users to create public or semi-public profiles that identify a list of other profiles to which they are connected. Users can also view each other’s connections (Boyd & Ellison, 2007). The data generated from these interactions provide a unique opportunity for researchers to examine the effect of public social networks on individuals’ social behaviours.

Despite key differences between SNSs, the sustained popularity of Facebook has led researchers to focus on it as the primary example of SNSs (Wilson, Gosling & Graham, 2012). Research investigating motivations for Facebook-use has identified two key factors: a need to belong and a need for self-presentation (Nadkarni & Hofmann, 2012).

The “Belongingness Hypothesis” (Baumeister & Leary, 1995) states that humans experience a drive to form and maintain positive relationships. These relationships extend beyond social contact and are characterised by sustained positive exchanges with desired individuals. A sense of belonging is associated with better health outcomes (Tomaka, Thompson & Palacios, 2006), greater life and relationship satisfaction (Mellor, Stokes, Firth, Hayashi & Cummins, 2008), reduced stress (Young, Russell & Powers, 2004) and reduced loneliness (Baskin, Wampold, Quintana & Enright, 2010). SNSs provide a platform for maintaining relationships and sustaining that sense of belonging amongst communities that span geographical and temporal distances. Facebook use, in particular, has been shown to predict social capital, facilitate networking and community and support relationship maintenance (Steinfield, Ellison & Lampe, 2008). It also acts as a buffer against loneliness (Lou, Yan, Nickerson & McMorris, 2012). However, these benefits seem to be moderated by the extent of active participation on Facebook (Burke, et al., 2010) and personality (Seidman, 2013).

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