Last Updated 31 Jan 2023

The Role of Social Comparisons Processes in the Psychological Outcomes

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Eckles, Franz, Okdie, Rose, & Vogel (2015) were interested in exploring the relationship between the use of social applications (e.g., Facebook) and its relationship between social comparison orientation (SCO). Unintentionally people compare themselves to others, and with the advancement of technology and social networking sites (SNS), it has been theorized that more substantial use of social media such as Facebook can negatively affect a person’s wellbeing.

Social networking sites display what people choose to post, most of it being accomplishments, attitudes, daily habits, and routines. Social applications offer various opportunities for people to self-evaluate and compare, which can provide evidence on how it affects a person's welfare. The authors hypothesized that people that are high in SCO are more likely to engage in social applications because it offers a platform for social comparison, and with this behavior results in a negative shift in a person's well-being made on social media.

The study consisted of 145 undergraduates (106 females) from Midwestern University who received course credit for their participation. The study was completed on computers in a lab using MediaLab software where participants completed a series of questionnaires involving social media use in college students.

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The materials used included an online survey made up of four parts. The first part involved a 6-point Likert-type scale in measuring the frequency of use in Facebook. The second part used the Iowa Netherlands Comparison Orientation Measure (INCOM) which consisted of 11 statement on a 5-point Likert-type scale to measure individuals’ differences in social comparison orientation (SCO).

The third part used the State Self-Esteem Scale (SSES) which consisted of 20 statements on a 1-5 Likert-type scale that measures self-esteem levels. The fourth part used Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS) which consisted of a 20-item scale to measure positive and negative mood states.

The fifth part use trait self-perceptions which included evaluative statements consisting of 11 traits to measure self-comparison. For the procedure, a consent form was administered to participants. After, participants were thanked and debriefed.

The data analysis regarding participants high in SCO being more negatively affected due the upward social comparison was used to examine the psychological outcomes. The correlated variables were compared between both the experimental condition variable and the Facebook experimental condition.

The researcher intervals the dependent measures onto SCO to find the relationship between the dummy-coded variables included in the model. The variable comparing Facebook experimental condition to the control condition was insignificant to show differences in self-perceptions.

However, the relationship between SCO and the dummy-coded variables compared to Facebook experimental condition against Facebook control conditions showed significance in trait self-perceptions.

The authors’ hypotheses were all confirmed by the results. The results overall demonstrated that social comparisons negatively impact people high in social comparison orientation. Research shown that high-SCO participants tend to be heavier users of social applications. As a result, researchers suggest that the greater social comparison on social media leads to negative and unintentional psychological outcomes.

The limitation addressed was the association between SCO and Facebook use in the study that was based on cross-sectional design. Future research could measure Facebook use with different techniques such as experience-sampling. Overall, the researcher's findings provided helpful information for my hypothesis regarding the influence of social networking sites on a person’s psychological state.

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