By John Salak –
It may come down to a chicken-and-egg thing. Does social media make people more materialistic or does overloading yourself with material goods make people want to compare themselves more to others who have less?
What may be more certain is that the combination of materialism and social media activity isn’t good for a person’s mental health. What’s also pretty obvious is that Americans are into consumer goods and they realize that their society is highly materialistic. Market data company Gitnuk, in fact, reports that 70 percent of Americans believe society is too into material goods and that 87 percent of Americans aged 18 to 25 think it is important to “buy and own things.”
German researchers recently took the connection with social media further via a survey of more than 1,200 participants who used at least one social media channel each week, spending on average over two hours daily online.
“The data showed that a stronger materialistic approach goes hand in hand with a tendency to compare oneself with others,” reported research leader Dr. Phillip Ozimek of Ruhr University Bochum in Germany.
The results discovered the comparison was particularly easy to make on social media, primarily through passive use, in effect looking at the content posted by other users. Materialism and passive use were also linked to addictive use of social media, the research found.
“By this, we mean, for example, that users are constantly thinking about the respective channels and fear that they are missing out on something if they are not online,” Ozimek explained.
This in turn leads to symptoms of poorer mental health, such as stress. “Social media is one of six steppingstones to unhappiness,” warned Ozimek. “Overall, the study provides further evidence that the use of social media is associated with risks, especially for people with a highly materialistic mindset.”
The risk level is particularly troubling because social media can trigger and increase materialistic values, through various online marketing schemes including influencers, the study reported. Beyond this, the researchers added that online platforms attract materialists anyway because they provide vehicles to satisfy their buying needs.
“It’s definitely a good idea to be aware of the amount of time you spend on social media and to reduce it,” Ozimek recommended. But he advised against giving it entirely. “If you did, you’re likely to overcompensate.”