Attachment Theory Applied to Social Media Interactions

mathias-sager-social media-attachment

Content:

  • Ubiquitous social media
  • Attachment style predicts social media use
  • Social media’s role in dating relationships & Social media addiction
  • Self-expression and branding in social media
  • Violent content and cyberbullying
  • Conclusion: Risks & opportunities

Ubiquitous social media

Social media like Facebook have shaped how people are managing social relationships [1]. For example, 86% of adults under thirty are using social media on a regular basis [2], which makes clear how pervasive these digital platforms have become.

Attachment style predicts social media use

There is the critique that social media might foster superficial relationships [3]. From the other side around, studies show that the degree to which knowledge is shared online depends on an individual’s online attachment, commitment for online relationships, and altruism [4]. It was found that attachment style influences online social relationships in correspondence with offline situations. According to attachment theory, attachment preferences result from continuous interactions leading to patterns of behavior towards a child’s caregiver and later on towards other people [17]. Individuals who feel secure in relationships are predictably likely to be socially well connected on social media [5].

Social media’s role in dating relationships & Social media addiction

Insecure attachment negatively impacts romantic partnerships. Interestingly though, control and ‘spying’ through social media can reassure a partner of an avoidant attachment style person in being cherished, the social media information gathering and monitoring being interpreted as interest and care and therefore taken as compensation for the generally negatively perceived avoidant attachment style [6]. In the dating stage of a relationship, Electronic Intrusion (EI), e.g., unannounced surveillance and monitoring of online activities, might be at the same time the result of and reinforce attachment anxiety and therefore constitute a problematic online dating behavior [7]. Attachment anxiety is also found to be associated with social media addiction when controlled for the stronger effect of the fear of missing something out [8].

Self-expression and branding in social media

High social media use can have positive effects on attachment, as to an institution like a college, which can positively influence one’s well-being [2]. Social media has proven to provide an effective means for favorable and accurate self-presentations that is important for one’s positive socialization and psychological functioning [9]. The understanding of people’s attachment styles from their social media use provides opportunities to, for example, marketing-related targeting of potential customers and supporters to predict and strategically influence their attachment to brands, places, products, and services [10]. Marketers can increase attachment to their social media content by increasing source credibility and reputation, e.g., based on positive user reviews [11].

Violent content & cyberbullying

Prosocial TV enhances children’s social and emotional skills for healthy relationships [12], but, on the other side, television and video games with violent content might also develop aggressive behavior [13]. The same might be true for social media content. Also, social media addiction tends to lead to decreased mindfulness [1]. Furthermore, the risk for socially and emotionally problematic adolescents to be traditionally and cyberbullied at the same time increases, whereas the combination of both bullying forms accumulates more harm for the teens concerned [14].

Conclusion: Risks & opportunities

In conclusion, although social media entails some risks of negatively impacting social relationships, it also offers opportunities from an attachment theory perspective by supporting the formation of social relationships that facilitate positive child-parent and peer-to-peer attachments [15]. Assessing social and emotional learning (SEL) values in Human Computer Interactions (HCI) therefore is utterly important in today’s highly digitally impacted societies [16].

Photo credit: geralt (pixabay.com)

References

[1] Sriwilai, K., & Charoensukmongkol, P. (2016). Face it, don’t Facebook it: Impacts of Social Media Addiction on Mindfulness, Coping Strategies and the Consequence on Emotional Exhaustion. Stress & Health: Journal Of The International Society For The Investigation Of Stress, 32(4), 427-434.

[2] Kim, Y., Liu, Y., & Shan, Z. (2017). Beyond touchdown: College students’ sports participation, social media use, college attachment, and psychological well-being. Telematics And Informatics, doi:10.1016/j.tele.2017.03.006

[3] Freeman, J. (2016). Possible Effects of Electronic Social Media on Gifted and Talented Children’s Intelligence and Emotional Development. Gifted Education International, 32(2), 165-172.

[4] Ma, W., & Chan, A. (2014). Knowledge sharing and social media: Altruism, perceived online attachment motivation, and perceived online relationship commitment. Computers In Human Behavior, 3951-58.

[5] Yaakobi, E. )., & Goldenberg, J. ). (2014). Social relationships and information dissemination in virtual social network systems: An attachment theory perspective. Computers In Human Behavior, 38127-135. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2014.05.025

[6] Wang, K., Zhou, M., & Zhang, Z. (2017). Can insecurely attached dating couples get compensated on social network sites? —The effect of surveillance. Computers In Human Behavior, 73303-310. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2017.03.046

[7] Reed, L. A., Tolman, R. M., Ward, L. M., & Safyer, P. (2016). Keeping tabs: Attachment anxiety and electronic intrusion in high school dating relationships. Computers In Human Behavior, 58259-268. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2015.12.019

[8] Blackwell, D., Leaman, C., Tramposch, R., Osborne, C., & Liss, M. (2017). Extraversion, neuroticism, attachment style and fear of missing out as predictors of social media use and addiction. Personality And Individual Differences, 11669-72. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2017.04.039

[9] Orehek, E., & Human, L. J. (2017). Self-expression on social media: Do tweets present accurate and positive portraits of impulsivity, self-esteem, and attachment style?. Personality And Social Psychology Bulletin, 43(1), 60-70.

[10] VanMeter, R. A., Grisaffe, D. B., & Chonko, L. B. (2015). Of ‘likes’ and ‘pins’: The effects of consumers’ attachment to social media. Journal Of Interactive Marketing, 3270-88. doi:10.1016/j.intmar.2015.09.001

[11] Chung, N., & Han, H. (2016). The relationship among tourists’ persuasion, attachment and behavioral changes in social media. Technological Forecasting & Social Change, doi:10.1016/j.techfore.2016.09.005

[12] Christensen, C. G., & Myford, C. M. (2014). Measuring Social and Emotional Content in Children’s Television: An Instrument Development Study null [article]. Journal Of Broadcasting And Electronic Media, (1), 21.

[13] Arnett, J. J. (2012). Human development: A cultural approach. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

[14] Cross, D., Lester, L., & Barnes, A. (2015). A longitudinal study of the social and emotional predictors and consequences of cyber and traditional bullying victimisation. International Journal Of Public Health, 60(2), 207-217. doi:10.1007/s00038-015-0655-1

[15] Levine, D. T., & Stekel, D. J. (2016). So why have you added me? Adolescent girls’ technology-mediated attachments and relationships. Computers In Human Behavior, 6325-34. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2016.05.011

[16] Slovak, P., & Fitzpatrick, G. (2015). Teaching and Developing Social and Emotional Skills with Technology. ACM Transactions On Computer-Human Interaction (TOCHI), 22(4), 19:1-19:34. doi:10.1145/2744195

[17] Lin, J. (2015). The role of attachment style in Facebook use and social capital: evidence from university students and a national sample. Cyberpsychology, Behavior And Social Networking, 18(3), 173-180. doi:10.1089/cyber.2014.0341

About mathias sager

Thinking and writing for happiness, painting colorfully, and enabling personal growth for all. Fostering co-operative and humanitarian principles, economic and social equality, as well as environmental sustainability. Using broad international experience and progressive, egalitarian and global outlook to promote care for the next generation.

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8 Responses to Attachment Theory Applied to Social Media Interactions

  1. janowrite says:

    This was a thoughtful and interesting essay. Educational. Thank you for posting!

  2. Great post Mathias. You framed it so well and the final picture is clear. We too agree with you that social media can be good when we choose to use it in such a manner. We are learning through our travels and conversations with young, old and in between the internet can be a lifeline for so many in powerful and stimulating ways.

  3. Interesting essay.

    It comes down to balance – like everything in life. People need to use social media and take advantage of the positive aspects of what it can provide as well as using it in conjunction with other forms of social behavior without becoming too dependent on it – in my opinion. 😀

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