Do you follow social media influencers? Do you read their posts on a regular basis? Do you find yourself wasting time or becoming fascinated with following influencers on social media? Do you feel detached or lost when you can’t check-in? You may have “problematic involvement” with social media influencers if you responded yes to all of these questions.
Negative aspects of the influence of social networks
This can be due to a variety of features and strategies used by social media influencers to stay relevant, such as live broadcasts and polls on Instagram.
But don’t be too hard on yourself. You’re one of the many people who has been caught away by the allure of social networking.
As experts in social media and user behavior, we recently published a paper that looks at followers’ problematic engagement with influencers on social media.
It is important to examine this context considering the significant volume and revenues of social media influencing — it’s a USD 13.8 billion industry.
Our paper is among the first to study which aspects of social media influence may lead to followers’ problematic engagement.
The issue of problematic engagement In the age of social media, most people know of or follow some social media influencers. Social media influencers are users who have a significant number of followers with established credibility.
Whether you are a fashion fan or want information on health and fitness — there’s an influencer to follow. And followers often gravitate towards them for their authenticity and content creation.
But less focus is put on the dark side of social media influence. Influencers are motivated and often incentivized (through product and brand endorsement) to increase their power on social media and many are becoming more proficient in attracting and engaging followers. Followers, on the other hand, can easily become attached and obsessed with influencers and their engagement can often become excessive and unhealthy.
Problematic engagement with social media influencers is common among followers, but not well known or understood. Our research We recently examined the factors and mechanisms that lead to problematic engagement.
We focused on three influencer characteristics (physical attractiveness, social attractiveness, and self-presence) and two follower participation attributes (participation comprehensiveness and following length) to explore their effects on the development of problematic engagement through the formation of follower attachments. Based on attachment theory, we studied two types of attachments — parasocial relationship and sense of belonging, both of which are key in social media influence.
The results showed that when followers develop attachments both to influencers (parasocial relationship) and their community (sense of belonging), this can lead to problematic engagement. We found that influencers’ social attractiveness has a stronger effect than other factors in building followers’ attachments.
We conducted an online survey of 500 Instagram users. The parasocial relationship is a followers’ perception of their one-sided relationship with an influencer and a sense of belonging refers to the feeling of being an integral member of the influencer’s community.
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