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The Global Use and Deficiency Paradigms: The Trend Between Online and Offline Social Interactions

Global use and deficiency paradigms are two hypotheses used to define the relationship between online and offline social interactions. The global use paradigm suggests that individuals have the same pattern of behaviour online as they do offline, for example if they are popular online they will also be popular online. Contrary to this the deficiency paradigm proposes that people use social networking sites as compensation for social interactions not being met in an offline setting. In this essay I focus on the personality traits that are associated with the two paradigms in regards to social networking and parasocial interactions.

The Global Use and Deficiency Paradigms: The Trend Between Online and Offline Social Interactions Social networking sites (SNSs) are online services that enable users to create profiles where they can share information about themselves, such as their interests and hobbies, post updates and photographs, communicate with current and old friends and participate in activities and events (Boyd & Ellison, 2007). The uses and gratification theory, arising in the 1940s, has been used in many research studies to evaluate the reasons why people use social media. Park, Kee & Valenzuela (2009) found that college students were using the online social media site, Facebook to satisfy their social and psychological needs. Their results showed that students were participating in Facebook groups to be kept up to date with events occurring on and off campus, to socialise with friends and to gain self-status (Park et al. 2009). Since the development of the internet, the online behaviour of users has become an increasingly popular area of study among social researchers, in particular online popularity on social media sites such as Facebook compared to offline popularity (Zywica & Danowski, 2008).

The global use and deficiency paradigms present discrete hypotheses regarding the connection between online and offline social relations. The global use paradigm suggest that people have the same personality online as they do offline (Freberg, Adams, McGaughey, & Freberg, 2010), to put it simply if you are popular offline you are just as popular online. On the other hand, the deficiency paradigm presents the idea that social media is used as compensation for the lack of adequate social interactions being met in an offline setting (Freberg et al. 2010). SNSs have changed how individuals identify both themselves and others in an online and offline setting (Zywica & Danowski, 2008). It is therefore important to have an understanding of how user’s personality type, such as sociability and self-presentation can affect their online status (Zywica & Danowski, 2008). Individuals who are more extroverted and have higher self-esteem generally fall under the global use paradigm and are more likely to use nonymous social media sites (Zywica & Danowski, 2008). Defined by Zywica and Danowski (2009) as the social enhancement theory or ‘the rich get richer’, these individuals are generally popular in an offline setting and use SNSs to maintain or increase their popularity online. On the other hand users that are likely to be grouped under the deficiency paradigm are more introverted, have lower self-esteem (Zywica & Danowski, 2008) and can also be narcissistic (Mehdizadeh, 2010).

Also known as the social compensation theory or ‘the poor get richer’ (Zywica & Danowski, 2008) these individuals are generally looking to satisfy inadequate offline relations with more fulfilling online social interactions. Parasocial interactions are another aspect of social networking that has become an increasingly popular area of study for social researchers. Parasocial interaction is a term used to describe the tendency for users of social media to form illusionary relationships with fictional characters from television shows and movies, celebrities and/or organisations (Horton & Wohl, 1956 as cited in Tsoa, 1996). Horton and Wohl’s study put forward two opposing reasons for peoples drive to engage in parasocial interactions. The first, analogous to the deficiency paradigm suggests that individuals who are ‘socially inept’ are likely to become engrossed by these interactions to compensate for the absence of face to face social connections in their everyday life (Tsoa, 1996). The second explanation, which can be paralleled to the global use paradigm, postulates that parasocial interactions are a universal experience that anyone can become involved in but require individuals to have a certain level of social skill to be able to fully engage in such interactions (Tsoa, 1996). Research into the use of SNSs has provided opportunities for social researchers to contrast the use of social media and psychological wellbeing using the global use and deficiency paradigms.

As previously mentioned the global use paradigm suggests that people’s patterns of behaviour are the same in an online and offline setting. Whereas the deficiency paradigm suggests that individuals are making up for a lack of offline interpersonal relationships by using social media sources. There has been much research into individual’s personality traits and motives for using SNSs. Zywica and Danowski studied two competing hypotheses in their 2008 study, social enhancement and social compensation, which parallel to Tsoa’s (1996) global use and deficiency paradigms respectively. Their study focused on the pattern of online and offline popularity on the SNS, Facebook in conjunction with sociability and self-esteem and how these traits may be linked to the social enhancement and social compensation hypotheses (Zywica & Danowski, 2008). Facebook popularity was considered the number of friends the users had and the user’s use of the ‘wall’ feature, both responding to posts on their wall and posting on others’ walls (Zywica & Danowski, 2008). Results proposed that more sociable or extroverted individuals that had a higher level of self-esteem were more popular in both an online and offline setting supporting the social enhancement hypothesis and global use paradigm (Zywica & Danowski, 2008). Consequently their results found that more introverted individuals with a lower level of self-esteem are less popular offline and aim to appear more popular online therefore supporting the social compensation hypothesis and deficiency paradigm (Zywica & Danowski, 2008). The results yielded by Zywica and Danowski (2008) suggest that self-esteem is a personality trait that can be used to explain both the global use and deficiency paradigms.

They observed that people with a lower level of self-esteem may use SNSs as a way to boost their self-image whereas individuals who already have a well-established self-image may use SNSs to maintain and to some degree increase their self-esteem. These results are similar to those obtained by Tice (1993) who supported the protection-enhancement hypothesis which stated that users that had high self-esteem would engage in social networking to gain a higher social status whereas users with low self-esteem would use them to fix their social shortcomings to then be deemed socially acceptable (Tice, 1993 as cited in Zywica & Danowski, 2008). Mehdizadeh (2010) investigated how self-esteem and narcissism influenced the use of the SNS, Facebook. In her study, Mehdizadeh concentrated on the personality trait narcissism, discussing the lack of focus narcissists place on interpersonal relational outcomes and rather their need to feel popular, powerful and successful. It has been suggested that SNSs provide the perfect environment for narcissists to self-regulate (Mehdizadeh, 2010). Self-esteem was also focused on and it was recognised that individuals with lower self-esteem were more likely to engage in online activities in an attempt to raise their self-esteem (Mehdizadeh, 2010). Based on these two concepts it was hypothesised that individuals with higher levels of narcissism and people with lower levels of self-esteem are more likely to engage in social networking and that they will be more inclined to self-promote (Mehdizadeh, 2010). Her results correlated with the deficiency paradigm, in that narcissistic individuals have greater ability to form a large number of relationships online which doesn’t correspond to their offline social status (Mehdizadeh, 2010). Results also showed that users with a low self-esteem were likely to spend more time engaging in online interactions. Freberg et al. (2010) studied the effect of loneliness on the participation in SNSs. The results they obtained suggested that the global use paradigm was a more fitting hypothesis for understanding the use of SNSs. Their results revealed a parallel between levels of loneliness experienced both offline and online (Freberg et al. 2010).

They proposed that perhaps in an anonymous setting they may not have obtained that same results and that the link between online and offline loneliness may be due to the publicity of sites such as Facebook (Freberg et al. 2010). They did however find that people who are lonelier in an offline setting spent more time online but this was merely to pass time. Parasocial interaction was a term coined by Horton and Wohl in 1956 to label imaginative one-way relationships most often formed between individuals, who know a lot about the other party and celebrities or fictional characters who do not reciprocate the relationship (Ashe & McCutcheon, 2001). Horton and Wohl (1956) as cited in Tsoa (1996) outlined two distinct motives for the formation of such interactions. The deficiency paradigm can be used to define the first motive, where individuals who do not have sufficient face to face relationships will develop parasocial interactions as a replacement (Freberg et al. 2010). The global use paradigm which corresponds to the second drive suggests that parasocial interactions do not develop as a result of the quality or quantity of interpersonal relationships but rather they are an experience in which anyone can become involved (Freberg et al. 2010). In 2001, Ashe and McCutcheon hypothesised that shyness and loneliness would be linked to the strength of one’s parasocial interactions. They defined shy persons as being uncomfortable and inhibited in the presence of the others and lonely persons as tending to have poor communication skills, both definitions contributing to their hypothesis as parasocial interactions require little social demand (Ashe & McCutcheon, 2001). In their study they assessed 150 participants with an average age of 25.3 years, responses on the UCLA Loneliness Scale and two similar versions the Celebrity Attitude Scale. Their results yielded a weak correlation between social anxiety and parasocial interactions but found that lonely persons were likely to more frequently use media sources as a way to pass time.

Tsoa (1996) studied whether an individual’s level of empathy, introversion/extroversion and neuroticism were motives for greater involvement in parasocial interactions. The results obtained by Tsao (1996), similar to those generated by Ashe and McCutcheon (2001), postulated that individuals with lower levels of empathy and extroversion and higher levels of neuroticism spent more time watching television, confirming the assumption of media use as compensation as suggested by the deficiency paradigm (Tsao, 1996). He found however that, these individuals displayed no stronger propensity to parasocial interactions than individuals with greater extraversion and empathy levels and lower neuroticism levels suggesting that parasocial interactions fit in to the global use paradigm. The global use and deficiency paradigms present distinct hypotheses regarding the trend between online and offline social interactions. Research in the area of social psychology has become increasingly focused on the relationship between psychological wellbeing and the use of social media. Studies have concentrated particularly on personality traits that may lead to increased use of SNSs. Zywica and Danowski (2008) and Mehdizadeh (2010) found that narcissistic individuals who are more introverted and have lower self-esteem generally use SNSs as a platform to compensate for the lack of adequate social interactions they receive in an offline setting, correlating to the assumptions of the deficiency paradigm.

Contrary to these findings Freberg et al. (2010) found that there is a trend between online and offline loneliness and that use of SNSs associates more strongly with the global use paradigm. Parasocial interactions have also been researched in regard to the two hypotheses. Horton and Wohl (1956) suggested that there are two reasons why individuals become involved in parasocial interactions. The first is paralleled to the deficiency paradigm in that individuals who are socially inept use parasocial interactions as compensation for a lack of face to face interactions. The second corresponding to the global use paradigm suggests that parasocial interactions are a universal experience that any individual can become involved in. Research by Tsoa (1996) found that parasocial interactions fit into the global use paradigm as there was no greater tendency for individuals with low levels of empathy and extroversion and high levels of neuroticism to partake in parasocial interactions than individuals with high levels of empathy and extraversion and low levels of neuroticism. These results were supported by a research study done in 2001 by Ashe and McCutcheon, who found that it is equally likely for shy and lonely people to engage in parasocial interactions as it was for people without social anxiety problems.

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