When people do research on social interactions on social media, what are they really trying to examine? And how do they do this? The latter quite often through self-reported measures ending up with claims about addiction to social media to answer the first question.
This new satirical article by Satchell et al applies the same kind of questionnaire that researchers use to study connections online… for offline social contacts. Yeah, that’s right. Maybe we’re also addicted to meet people in real life? I have to admit, because of COVID19 I do have felt withdrawal symptoms. Maybe Satchell and co are right!
Btw: although satirical in nature, the study was preregistered and all materials that the researchers hold the copyright for, data and code are available on the OSF here: https://osf.io/9y2rh/
Abstract of the paper:
A growing number of self-report measures aim to define interactions with social media in a pathological behavior framework, often using terminology focused on identifying those who are ‘addicted’ to engaging with others online. Specifically, measures of ‘social media addiction’ focus on motivations for online social information seeking, which could relate to motivations for offline social information seeking. However, it could be the case that these same measures could reveal a pattern of friend addiction in general. This study develops the Offline-Friend Addiction Questionnaire (O-FAQ) by re-wording items from highly cited pathological social media use scales to reflect “spending time with friends”. Our methodology for validation follows the current literature precedent in the development of social media ‘addiction’ scales. The O-FAQ had a three-factor solution in an exploratory sample of N = 807 and these factors were stable in a 4-week retest (r = .72 to .86) and was validated against personality traits, and risk-taking behavior, in conceptually plausible directions. Using the same polythetic classification techniques as pathological social media use studies, we were able to classify 69% of our sample as addicted to spending time with their friends. The discussion of our satirical research is a critical reflection on the role of measurement and human sociality in social media research. We question the extent to which connecting with others can be considered an ‘addiction’ and discuss issues concerning the validation of new ‘addiction’ measures without relevant medical constructs. Readers should approach our measure with a level of skepticism that should be afforded to current social media addiction measures.