Social sharing and popular posts

Sharing to be sociable or posting to be popular? Whatever your stance on social media it seems from recent research in the Netherlands that a student’s decision to share information on Facebook is predicated primarily on their perception of the benefits of sharing and not on their privacy concerns.

Writing in the International Journal of Web Based Communities, Ardion Beldad of the Department of Corporate and Marketing Communication, at the University of Twente, explains how Facebook use is closely tied to the need to disclose various types of personal information for users to experience the full benefits of using the platform. He wanted to know whether Dutch vocational students are actually deterred from sharing potentially sensitive personal and private information given awareness of risks and privacy valuation of the site.

His survey of almost 300 students revealed that the majority are quite happy to share photos, statements of their current activities, thoughts on issues or products regardless. The benefits derived from ease of communication and connectivity between friends and members of an online social network, and Facebook, in particular, seem to be perceived as far outweighing any problems that might arise from users sharing such vast amounts of information about themselves.

Aside from the issue of advertisement targeting that becomes easier for the provider of a social network given this plethora of personal information, there are also the risks of exposure to a wider and potentially malicious “audience”, either inadvertently through inappropriate privacy settings or should an online social network be hacked. “Users seem unperturbed by the negative repercussions of disclosure, as information sharing proceeds unabated,” Beldad reports.

He adds that, “Analysis reveals that people with more Facebook contacts are more inclined to share personal information on their Facebook walls than those with fewer contacts.” Moreover, “Those who have been members of the platform for a relatively long period tend to share personal information more frequently than those who are new to the site.”

Beldad, A.D. (2015) ‘Sharing to be sociable, posting to be popular: factors influencing non-static personal information disclosure on Facebook among young Dutch users’, Int. J. Web Based Communities, Vol. 11, Nos. 3/4, pp.357–374.

Author: David Bradley

Award-winning, freelance science writer based in Cambridge, England.