3.24.2013

Social Comparisons: For Class Discussion

Here is a brief update on the topic of self-concept/comparison with others that I included in the new editions of my Interpersonal Messages and Essentials of Human Communication. For those using a previous edition or any book for that matter, I thought this might prove a useful addition.  Even though written just a few months ago, there is much that has happened in the meantime. And so I thought this might make a useful class discussion in the interpersonal or hybrid courses—simply asking:  In what other ways do social media encourage/make easy/facilitate our comparing ourselves to others? And, more important, what is the impact of this on self-concept, self-esteem, and so many of the other concepts were cover in these basic courses?

Comparisons with Others Another way you develop your self-concept is by comparing yourself with others. When you want to gain insight into whom you are and how effective or competent you are, you probably look to your peers. For example, after an examination you probably want to know how you performed relative to the other students in your class. If you play on a baseball team, it’s important to know your batting average in comparison with others on the team. You gain an additional perspective when you see your score in comparison with the scores of your peers. And, if you want to feel good about yourself, you might compare yourself to those you know are less effective than you (it’s called downward social comparison), though there are values in comparing yourself to those you think are better than you (upward social comparison). If you want a more accurate and objective assessment, you’d compare yourself with your peers, with others who are similar to you.

      Social networking sites and social media generally have provided us with the tools  (all very easy to use) to compare ourselves to others to perhaps estimate our individual worth or perhaps make us feel superior. Here are just a half-dozen ways social media enables you to find out how you stand.

·         Search engine reports. Type in your name on Google, Bing, or Yahoo, for example, and you’ll see the number of websites on which your name (and similarly named others) appears. Type in a colleague’s name and you get his or her score which, you’re hoping, is lower than yours.

·         Network spread.  Your number of friends on Facebook or your contacts on LinkedIn or Plaxo is in some ways a measure of your potential influence. Look at a friend’s profile and you have your comparison. Not surprisingly, there are websites that will surf the net to help you contact more social network friends.

·         Online influence. Network sites such as Klout and PeerIndex provide you with a score (from 0-100) of your online influence. Your Klout score, for example, is a combination of your “true reach”—the number of people you influence, “amplification”—the degree to which you influence them, and “network”—the influence of your network. Postrank Analytics, on the other hand, provides you with a measure of engagement—the degree to which people interact with, pay attention to, read, or comment on what you write.

·         Twitter activities. The number of times you tweet might be one point of comparison but, more important, is the number of times you are tweeted about or your tweets are repeated (retweets). Twitalyzer will provide you with a three-part score: an impact score, a Klout score, and a Peer Index score and will also enable you to search the “twitter elite” for the world as well as for any specific area (you can search by zip code). Assuming your Twitter score is what you’d like it to be, a single click will enable you to post this score on your own Twitter page.

·         Blog presence. Your blog presence is readily available from your “stats” tab where you can see how many people visited your blog since inception or over the past year, month, week, or day. And you’ll also see a map of the world indicating where people who are visiting your blog come from.

·         References to written works. Google Scholar, for example, will enable you to see how many other writers have cited your works (and how many cited the works of the person you’re comparing) and the works in which you were cited. And, of course, Amazon and other online book dealers provide rankings of your books along with a star system based on reviewers’ comments.

 

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