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Apr 25, 2008

Study: Social Networks Mirroring Reality TV - Reality Journalism

Ed: One of the most popular themes at 'The New Economics of Advertising.'
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Study: Social Networks Mirroring Reality TV

New research from the University of Buffalo and University of Hawaii concludes that young people who watch reality TV are more likely to accept a large number of unknown friends and to post photos of themselves on social networking sites than their peers who do not watch shows like American Idol and Survivor. The researchers deemed such behavior "promiscuous."

Such research could lead to any number of other questions, but it does challenge the assertion that high-volume communication online is limited to a select few power-users in the tech industry. In other words, the "Scoble Problem" of Facebook's 5000 friend limit may be effecting people in the world at large.

More likely, the research gives reason to believe that online social networking may not be a fad. Beyond its usefulness for communication, personal expression and directory look-ups, the sites are also working in sync with some of the biggest cultural trends at large.

"Social cognitive theory suggests that we are always looking for different ways to behave," primary researcher Michael Stefanone told the U. of Buffalo school paper. "When people on reality TV are rewarded for behaviors such as being the center of attention and gain celebrity from it, it communicates to the audience that these behaviors are good things."

University coverage of the study concludes with the obligatory reminder that your Paris Hilton-style exploits on Facebook today could lose you a job tomorrow. I haven't found that to be true yet myself, but whatever.

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