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The other side of the experiment

I’m passively consuming Facebook daily. I post a few times a month, mostly music, or photos with nature or my dog. Sometimes, I share personal information such as pictures/videos with me or check-ins. This way, Facebook will be remembering me what happened in the past years. I really love the memory feature of this platform. I’m always excited when I get “on this day” notification.

A few years ago I got tired of seeing selfies, photos with food, check-ins and other exaggerated personal things of people in my network. I considered that I was missing more interesting and relevant information for my personal, professional, educational and cultural development.

So I decided to „filter” the information in my news feed. It took me a few hours but I managed to unfollow (not to be confused with „unfriend”) people I believed not to generate, or be related to, the content I was looking for. By default, each time I make a new connection, I also start following that person. If I notice that the content he/she shares is bothering me in some way, I unfollow him/her. At the moment I follow around 20 people (from 548 friends) and lots of brands, artists, news/media companies and other communities I find productive or useful. I really enjoy this strategy as I can easily follow topics I am interested in.

Having to do a school project, I read about how people gratify certain needs using media. Theories and research show that individuals use social media to initiate and maintain relationships, for entertainment, to search for information or to pass-time. Good.

But what about all the people I unfollowed? Those who post a lot of selfies, photos with food, check-ins and so on?

Are they using media to promote themselves? Why are they doing it? Are they fishing for likes? And, especially, is disclosing personal information more engaging than sharing other information on social media? That’s how I decided to conduct the experiment.

The experiment on short: during 16 weeks I planned my Facebook posts to see how users in/outside my network react to 4 types of content: personal, entertaining, educational, news. I posted 4 times a week (Tue, Wed, Fri, Sat) each content, by rotation. I monitored and analyzed the number of reactions for each post. I also considered the nature of reactions and the characteristics of the audience.

I never imagined that it will be such a great experience for me. I had to be an actor. I had to directly disclose myself, once a week, without people noticing such a change in my online behavior. Also, I had to find topics that I relate to and that are also relevant to most of my friends network.

From the beginning I felt positive that my hypothesis will be proven. Personal content was receiving most reactions. And the results confirmed it: in terms of positive reactions such as like, love, laugh, unique reactions and outsiders, personal content was the most popular. Even influencers and music artists engaged with this type of information shared.

Posts that showed my look, life-style and hobbies engaged more the audience than those that showed my values, interests, causes I care about or cultural beliefs. I realized that most reactions were generated by posts that showed where I am, how I look, events I attend, places I visit. There is a significant lower number of reactions to those that represent my real self, my principles, what I care about. Based on the average number of reactions, the final “score” is 46 to 7.

I looked at people that were interested in the “real me”. They are individuals with whom I have something in common, not just going to the same school or working in the same building. We share similar interests and attitudes. These are the kind of people I want to stay in touch with. Friends, acquaintances, even people I haven’t met in person, that share my values. Their “feedback” is more important to me than the one received from various former colleagues, music artists that I don’t know who they are in real life or influencers I have nothing in common with.

As I mentioned before, I really enjoyed doing the experiment. It was a great challenge to find relevant content. I felt uncomfortable sharing personal information. It was hard to find a balance between disclosing attractive content and not disclosing too much about myself. I learned to understand my own behavior but also the behavior of others, on social media. Finally, after all this research, I see that there are two aspects to consider, when drawing conclusions:

Professional level

You have any long-term goal for personal or professional development that implies being famous on Social Media

Maybe you want to become an influencer. In order to atract fans and followers, you should start by posting about yourself. My study confirms the strategies media advices us to follow in order to gain popularity online: make a lot of nice pictures, affiliatiate with famous people and brands, use location tags and hashtags, make a lot of friends.

The findings of another study I conducted support the results of the experiment. 67% of the participants of the survey said that personal posts generate the most reactions. There were 203 respondents, males and females, from 5 age generations. Influencers interviewed said they used possessions, gifts and acquisitions in order to self-promote on social media at the beginning of their career.

Personal level

You are just an individual looking for well-being

So, you don’t want to become an influencer, you’re not a model, you don’t actually need to be famous on social media. Then why bother hunting for appreciation and recognition online? Constantly comparing with others and making efforts to display a certain self can be exhausting. Needs of love and belonging will not be satisfied as long as they are measured by the number of virtual friends, followers or likes.

The internet offers great opportunities to communicate without time and space barriers. It also provides the tools for personal and professional development. You should use it to discover and explore different cultures and communities. To find people with similar interests. Boost your self-esteem by expanding your knowledge. Get involved in different topics, make real connections and learn new things.

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