Social Media "Likes" are Linked to Heightened Perceived Social Validation

In a recent study released by D.Y. Wohn, C. T. Carr, and Rebecca. A. Hayes (Hayes et. al.), it was proven that paralinguistic digital affordances (PDAs), such as "likes" and "favorites" on social media sites, improve one's opinions about the wellbeing of one's social life. The survey conducted by Hayes et. al. asked American adults what their perceived social support was from receiving certain social media PDAs.

Individuals either with high self-esteem or low self-esteem have similar reactions to PDAs

Results of the survey suggest that both people with high psychological well-being as well as those with low psychological well-being have improved perceived social support levels from receiving more PDAs. The findings not only conclude that PDAs heighten perceived social support, but also that people with high self-esteem as well as high sensitivity about what others think about them were the most likely to perceive said social support and validation.

Those who are lonely, or who have a "lack of connectedness with others or [have] perceived social isolation", did not have particularly showing results. Loneliness itself did not seem to have a direct effect on perceived social support and validation.

Those interviewed for the study generally perceived PDAs to be socially supportive both quantitatively and qualitatively, regardless of the implicit meaning associated with each individual post. A post could be about an interesting article one found, or a new dog one adopted, or a vacation one just returned from, and all would illicit a positive emotional response to PDAs for said posts.

Meanings and reactions for each social media outlet's PDAs are unique to each platform

A previous study by Hayes et. al. included information on the differences between interpretations of PDAs on various social media sites; although most social media outlet have common uses and validations of PDAs, most meanings of the "likes" and "favorites" were "idiosyncratic to each social medium". It was found that "favorites" and "likes" on Instagram and Facebook, respectively, tend to hold more weight in terms of perceived social validation than "favorites" on Twitter.

For example, on one hand, Facebook's website defines the use of a "like" as "an easy way to let people know that you enjoy [a post] without leaving a comment", and are generally perceived to be common. On the other hand, Twitter "favorites" are less common; as Olivia, age 22, states, "lots of posts [on Twitter] go by with no favorites. It isn't weird".

The difference between the perceived social support of a user receiving or not receiving PDAs on one social media platform compared to the other is subtle yet significant. Facebook users, who are generally more familiar with receiving PDAs on their posts on a frequent basis than are Twitter users, are more significantly affected when they do not receive a PDA for a post than when they are. This apposes Twitter users, who feel "rewarded" when they receive PDAs for posting a good post.

Future work in the field: finding more specific answers

Both studies linked above stated the need for future studies to find better and more accurate answers to how PDAs affect one's perceived social support. Although one study attempted to find the effect(s) of loneliness on perceived social validation from PDAs, it was to no avail. Future studies could be useful in further discovering the effects of loneliness.

It can be concluded from the study that regardless of one's social well-being, one appreciates PDAs and deems them important. Future studies that find more specific answers will only help the search in discovering the psychological effects of PDAs.

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