Social media takes up a large percentage of the average person’s time, so it’s an obvious assumption that it has an effect on human behaviour. In my personal experience, I’ve noticed that the more time someone spends on social media the more significance the person puts on social media. This mode of behaviour – associating power, ability, and purpose with someone’s popularity on different forms of social media – is something many of my peers have noticed as well, and it’s not a random phenomenon from my personal group.
As Jordan Kasteler in his article analyzing Connected: The Surprising Powers of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives by Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler, research has found that most social networks primarily support pre-existing social relations. This shows why it isn’t uncommon to find Facebook and other social media site groups segregated by ethnicity, education, gender, or other societal segmentation factors. The combination of segregation and supporting pre-existing relationships can have drastically negative affects. Christakis and Fowler’s research found that if someone’s friend (on social media) were to become obese, that person was 57% more likely to become obese, and the friend of the friend was 20% more likely to become obese as well. The same went for smoking, where a someone who had a friend who started to smoke was 36% more likely to take up smoking.
Although this information probably isn’t a universal truth, its findings show just how our connectedness can affect us. Sure, we’re probably not all going to become obese because a friend of a friend did so, but it is undeniable how different trends can influence people’s actions. Social media trends like “no make-up selfie” and “some random challenge” tags influence how people act, and change their behaviour so as to better coincide with social media trends. This, in my opinion, reinforces how much power we give social media. Our behaviours can be changed because of the way a social media friend acts, if that particular person received a lot of “likes” or “retweets”, their actions are considered more valid and important, allowing others to consciously or subconsciously change their behaviours to imitate the friend’s actions.