Nature vs. nurture: How we use social media

How do you interact with social media? Are you that person who provides friends with a constant stream of photos, articles and witty quips on your profile? Maybe you’re a more passive user, dropping the occasional “like” or comment here and there. Maybe, unlike an estimated 2.8 billion people worldwide, you don’t even use social media.

However you may use the World Wide Web to communicate with others, it may not really be up to you. At least, not up to a certain point.

Kent State University professor Chance York concluded that an individual’s genes influence the frequency of their social media usage, after comparing surveys between sets of fraternal and identical twins.

York found that twins tended to use social media in similar ways. Most notable was the strong correlation between identical twins.

“I would speculate that there’s probably a gene or set of genes that influence things like extraversion and introversion and sociability, and that probably then impacts whether you’re seeking out social or other media to fulfill certain needs,” York said. “There’s not a specific gene that tells you how to use social media, but genes do indirectly influence traits that might, in turn, impact media selection and behavior.”

York suggests that up to two-thirds of social media usage can be pinned back to genetic traits. The rest is likely motivated by things going on in the world around a person, such as their access to technology and the way the people around them influence their attitudes.

To reach his conclusions, York used an analytical model called Defries-Fulker Regression to look at twin data, according to the International Communication Association. He also outlines plans to use the model to investigate more twin data in the future, and plans to attend the Twins Day Festival in Twinsburg, Ohio this summer to continue his research.

York will present more on his findings at the 67th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association later this month.

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