AU MA Social Media

A class blog about social media.

Being Bad on Facebook – What Are You Thinking?

Posted by zachthebernstein on June 15, 2013

Any article with the title “Facebook Made Me Do It” is probably there for click bait.  I can offer anecdotal proof – I clicked on it.

As it happens, this New York Times article is a little drier than you might think, given the title, but it’s still an interesting read.  We’ve discussed this before: Why would someone want to do something incredibly stupid, like sharing an inappropriate photo on social media?  What on earth goes through their heads?

As it turns out, it may all be about the cost-benefit analysis – in some really insane way, it might actually make sense to post that photo, at least to some people.  Coye Cheshire, a professor at UC Berkeley, seems to think so:

In a study of social exchange systems like Facebook, when people were told that their networks liked the content they were sharing, they shared more. But when they were told that people in their network did not like their shared content, they actually shared even more to figure out what their network might like, and “come up with more content that was edgier,” he said. […]

Mr. Cheshire was quick to point out that he did not blame social media for inspiring bad behavior, only exacerbating it among those who are already inclined that way. “For people who get a lot of motivation out of knowing that other people will respond to what they are doing, knowing that thousands or millions could see it can be very powerful,” he added. “When there’s enough notoriety that can come out of it, it changes the risk calculation and raises the incentive.”

Not necessarily the sort of thing that’s easy to wrap your head around – at least, if you’re a Master’s candidate.  I’ll admit, I enjoy it when something I post gets a lot of likes, but I also can’t imagine it being worth it – for me or anyone else – to post something that could come back to haunt me later on in life.  After all, we know Facebook keeps everything you post forever.  It’s the internet equivalent of styrofoam – it’s not going away.  So what kind of “jolt,” as the article puts it, does it take to make this sort of thing make sense?

I suppose if I was a psychology student, I could have a lot of fun with this.  In the meantime, I’m just glad I’m more of a forward thinker than some of these folks.



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