Jerry O.: The Influence of Social Media on Behaviour

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The behaviour of the average person is influenced by many factors, especially those that they are exposed to on a constant basis.  For instance, a person’s personal belief systems, family structure, family norms, peer pressure and even the environment will have influence on their reactions to situations and consequently will help shape their behaviour.  The social media has been repeatedly shown to be a viable source of social influence on people’s behaviour despite the fact that it is a collection of many virtual communities rather than real life interactions.

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With constant exposure to a particular kind of content, users are bound to have their thought processes, behaviour and actions becoming modelled after their most desired content.  For example, the words of favourite politicians and celebrities can determine the position their supporters and fans will take on various issues, respectively.  The extent to which a person patterns their behaviour after their favourite social media content is determined by a myriad of factors which include their parental upbringing, their personality, previous experiences and even their age.  It is expected that teenagers will be more influenced because they spend more time on social media than the older population;  it is more likely that teenagers will start dressing like their favourite pop star, model or actor because they are constantly searching for content about their idols, and as such it is inescapable that they begin to behave like them.  The downside to this is that it may make parenting more difficult especially if the idols are not very good role models for these teenagers.  The behaviour of adults on the other hand, even if it is influenced, will be to a lesser extent.

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Influence on Advertising and Buying Behaviour
The influence of social media on people’s behaviour has also spread its tentacles into virtually every aspect of people’s lives and shopping behaviour is not an exception.  This explains why many producers are increasing their advertisements on social media platforms with the ultimate aim of sitting in people’s psyche and exerting an influence on their choice of item to purchase.  The way this works is that a larger percentage of the population will buy things they catch their attention, thus catchy adverts are on the increase.  Another perspective to this is that even if the person will not make an immediate purchase online, the repeated exposure to a particular advert means when they go to a shop or they want to purchase an item, they will look out for the one that they have been seeing online, whether consciously or otherwise.

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Circulation of news
Another aspect of the influence of social media on people’s behaviour is related to the speed at which news gets circulated on the various forms.  The demand for information is growing and as such people want to be the ones to “break a news” to their circle;  thus, people no longer filter what is newsworthy and what should be private or left out of the news.  Everything is now fair game.  The effect this has is that people now have to watch their actions and behaviours even when with friends or family because even a slight slip-up can become a viral video showing failed family dinners, videos or screenshots that can ruin careers or at the very least make people the object of fun and ridicule even if such contents were uploaded with no malicious intent.  The overall effect is that people are paying closer attention to what they say and do thus making it hard to tell when someone is being real or just acting.  In other words, the good old days of being able to let go and be real is fast disappearing simply because you never know who is making a video and the internet never forgets.

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Positive effects on Behaviour
Social media can also have a positive effect on people’s behaviour.  For example, there are parenting forums which help parents through difficult times, weight loss groups, and generally groups where users dispel positive advice to each other with the ultimate aim of helping each other live good lives.  Some other platforms are also dedicated towards presenting different views on social issues and encouraging people to change their behaviour to create a better society.

The influence of social media on the way people behave is largely due to the fact that the ideas, notions and content they are exposed to become embedded in their minds over time and the behavioural changes begin gradually until they are very noticeable.  The negative effects on behaviour may outweigh the positive although the effect depends on the individual.  Therefore, people should pay close attention to the things they expose their minds to on social media and parents should also mind what their children and wards are doing on social media because it is a proven psychological fact that human behaviour and beliefs can be influenced by things they see continuously.

*This is the first post by Jerry of SG Psych Stuff! Learn more about Jerry and the other SG Psych Stuff team members here: