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Country Differences in Social Comparison on Social Media

Justin Cheng
October 21, 2020

Country Differences in Social Comparison on Social Media

Social comparison is a common focus in discussions of online social media use, and differences in its frequency, causes, and outcomes may arise from country or cultural differences. To understand how these differences play a role in experiences of social comparison on Facebook, a survey of 37,729 people across 18 countries was paired with respondents' activity on Facebook. The findings were augmented with 39 in-person interviews in three countries. Social comparison frequency was more strongly predicted by country than by age, gender, and Facebook activity combined, indicating that country differences are important to consider when studying social comparison. Women's and men's experiences differed greatly between countries. Exposure to high feedback counts on friends' posts was associated with more frequent social comparison, but only in some countries. Design interventions that account for such country differences may be more effective at reducing the negative outcomes of social comparison.

Presented at CSCW 2020

Justin Cheng

October 21, 2020
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  1. Justin Cheng, Moira Burke, and Bethany de Gant
    Country Differences in
    Social Comparison on
    Social Media

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  2. Social comparison occurs whenever people
    compare themselves to others.
    Festinger 1956 · Suls, et al. 2002

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  3. Social comparison is a common concern
    when using social media.
    Chou & Edge, 2012 · Vogel, et al. 2014 · etc.

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  4. Social comparison has been linked to
    negative (and positive) outcomes.
    Wood 1989 · Suls, et al. 2002 · Buunk & Gibbons 2006 · Vogel, et al. 2015 · Scherr, et al. 2018 · etc.

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  5. Small-scale, offline studies suggest that
    global differences in social comparison exist.
    Gibbons & Buunk 1999 · Guimond, et al. 2007 · Krizan & Gibbons 2014
    Previous work

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  6. Understanding the relationship between
    social comparison and country differences.
    This work

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  7. Survey + Interviews + FB Activity Logs
    Method

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  8. Survey + Interviews + FB Activity Logs
    Method
    37,729 people from 18 countries
    Brazil, Germany, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Indonesia,
    India, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Norway, Philippines, Sweden,
    Singapore, Thailand, Turkey, the United States, and Vietnam

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  9. Survey + Interviews + FB Activity Logs
    Method
    39 in-person interviews in 3 countries
    India (highest comparison)
    United States (moderate comparison)
    Mexico (lowest comparison)

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  10. Survey + Interviews + FB Activity Logs
    Method
    Demographics
    Engagement measures

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  11. Social comparison was measured using a
    four-question scale.
    Cronbach’s ɑ = 0.75
    Method
    Q1. On Facebook, how often do you observe what other
    people are doing to decide how you should act?

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  12. Social comparison was measured using a
    four-question scale.
    Cronbach’s ɑ = 0.75
    Method
    Q2. On Facebook, how often do you compare your own
    accomplishments to the accomplishments of other people?

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  13. Social comparison was measured using a
    four-question scale.
    Cronbach’s ɑ = 0.75
    Method
    Q3. On Facebook, how often do you think about how you
    present yourself to other people?

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  14. Social comparison was measured using a
    four-question scale.
    Cronbach’s ɑ = 0.75
    Method
    Q4. On Facebook, how often do you feel worse about
    yourself after comparing yourself to someone else?

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  15. Social Comparison × Country
    Social Comparison × Country × Gender
    Social Comparison × Country × Like Counts
    Results

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  16. Social Comparison × Country
    Social Comparison × Country × Gender
    Social Comparison × Country × Like Counts
    Results

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  17. 4.4%
    7.6%
    11%
    0.0%
    2.5%
    5.0%
    7.5%
    10.0%
    Age, gender,
    friend count,
    and time spent
    Country Combined
    Variance in social comparison explained
    Country was a more
    important predictor of
    social comparison than
    other demographic
    variables.

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  18. 2.29
    1.8
    2.13
    2.05
    2.38
    2.52
    2.71
    2
    2.14
    1.96
    2.34
    2.7
    2.25
    2.46
    2.59
    2.25
    2.3
    2.71
    Germany
    Mexico
    Japan
    France
    Denmark
    Korea
    Turkey
    Sweden
    Brazil
    United States
    Norway
    United Kingdom
    Singapore
    Indonesia
    Thailand
    Philippines
    India
    Vietnam
    Never Rarely Sometimes
    Social comparison frequency
    Social comparison on Facebook
    Social comparison varies
    substantially by country.

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  19. 2.29
    1.8
    2.13
    2.05
    2.38
    2.52
    2.71
    2
    2.14
    1.96
    2.34
    2.7
    2.25
    2.46
    2.59
    2.25
    2.3
    2.71
    Germany
    Mexico
    Japan
    France
    Denmark
    Korea
    Turkey
    Sweden
    Brazil
    United States
    Norway
    United Kingdom
    Singapore
    Indonesia
    Thailand
    Philippines
    India
    Vietnam
    Never Rarely Sometimes
    Social comparison frequency
    Social comparison on Facebook
    Social comparison varies
    substantially by country.

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  20. Social Comparison × Country
    Social Comparison × Country × Gender
    Social Comparison × Country × Like Counts
    Results

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  21. Men feel more
    comparison
    Women feel more
    comparison
    Germany
    Mexico
    Japan
    France
    Denmark
    Korea
    Turkey
    Sweden
    Brazil
    United States
    Norway
    United Kingdom
    Singapore
    Indonesia
    Thailand
    Philippines
    India
    Vietnam
    −0.4 −0.2 0.0 0.2 0.4
    Combined population and group effect
    Gender and social comparison
    The relationship between
    gender and social
    comparison frequency
    differs by country.
    See paper for methodological details.

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  22. Men feel more
    comparison
    Women feel more
    comparison
    Germany
    Mexico
    Japan
    France
    Denmark
    Korea
    Turkey
    Sweden
    Brazil
    United States
    Norway
    United Kingdom
    Singapore
    Indonesia
    Thailand
    Philippines
    India
    Vietnam
    −0.4 −0.2 0.0 0.2 0.4
    Combined population and group effect
    Gender and social comparison
    The relationship between
    gender and social
    comparison frequency
    differs by country.
    See paper for methodological details.

    View Slide

  23. Men feel more
    comparison
    Women feel more
    comparison
    Germany
    Mexico
    Japan
    France
    Denmark
    Korea
    Turkey
    Sweden
    Brazil
    United States
    Norway
    United Kingdom
    Singapore
    Indonesia
    Thailand
    Philippines
    India
    Vietnam
    −0.4 −0.2 0.0 0.2 0.4
    Combined population and group effect
    Gender and social comparison
    The relationship between
    gender and social
    comparison frequency
    differs by country.
    See paper for methodological details.

    View Slide


  24. Men in India may
    experience more
    pressure than women to
    provide for their families.
    My wife sees things on
    Facebook that make her feel
    like our lifestyle isn’t good
    enough. It ruins the whole
    mood in my house... I feel like
    I’m not good enough. It
    makes me hate myself…
    Male, 35-44, India

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  25. Brazil
    Germany
    Denmark
    France
    United Kingdom
    Indonesia
    India
    Japan
    Korea
    Mexico
    Norway
    Philippines
    Sweden
    Singapore
    Thailand
    Turkey
    United States
    Vietnam
    Men feel more
    comparison
    Women feel more
    comparison
    20
    30
    40
    50
    60
    −0.3 −0.2 −0.1 0.0 0.1 0.2
    Social comparison differences
    between men and women
    % women in the labor force
    Gender differences in social comparison
    and the proportion of women in the labor force
    Social comparison is
    more frequent among
    women in countries
    where women make up
    more of the labor force.

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  26. Social Comparison × Country
    Social Comparison × Country × Gender
    Social Comparison × Country × Like Counts
    Results

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  27. Likes lower
    comparison
    Likes increase
    comparison
    Germany
    Mexico
    Japan
    France
    Denmark
    Korea
    Turkey
    Sweden
    Brazil
    United States
    Norway
    United Kingdom
    Singapore
    Indonesia
    Thailand
    Philippines
    India
    Vietnam
    −0.1 0.0 0.1 0.2
    Combined population and group effect
    Likes/reactions and social comparison
    Seeing more posts with
    20+ Likes or Reactions
    was associated with
    more frequent social
    comparison in all
    countries.
    See paper for methodological details.

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  28. Likes lower
    comparison
    Likes increase
    comparison
    Germany
    Mexico
    Japan
    France
    Denmark
    Korea
    Turkey
    Sweden
    Brazil
    United States
    Norway
    United Kingdom
    Singapore
    Indonesia
    Thailand
    Philippines
    India
    Vietnam
    −0.1 0.0 0.1 0.2
    Combined population and group effect
    Likes/reactions and social comparison
    Seeing more posts with
    20+ Likes or Reactions
    was associated with
    more frequent social
    comparison in all
    countries.
    See paper for methodological details.

    View Slide


  29. In India and the US,
    people talked about how
    Likes elicited negative
    feelings.
    I’m happy for people when
    I see lots of likes on their
    posts, but at the same
    time, it makes me feel
    inferior to them.
    Female, 25-34, US

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  30. In Mexico, people said
    they were less affected
    by Like counts.
    Well, I know that she has a
    big family, so I just think
    that there are more people
    who are able to see the
    posts she makes.
    Female, 25-34, Mexico

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  31. What do these findings suggest?
    Discussion

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  32. Designs intended to mitigate social
    comparison in one region may not work in
    another.

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  33. Reducing the visibility of feedback counts
    could be helpful.

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  34. Country differences play a significant role in
    how social media affects experiences of
    social comparison.
    Conclusion

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  35. Why do country differences in social comparison exist?
    What’s the relationship between country and age?
    How about with viewing profiles?
    What do these results tell us about cultural differences?
    Are there within-country differences?
    Also in the paper…

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  36. Justin Cheng, Moira Burke, and Bethany de Gant
    Country Differences in
    Social Comparison on
    Social Media
    http://bit.ly/country-differences

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