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Article
Publication date: 28 February 2023

Angeliki Nikolinakou and Joe Phua

Social media has the potential to enable exchange of diverse opinions, foster dialogue on important social issues and exert positive influence on stakeholders and society…

Abstract

Purpose

Social media has the potential to enable exchange of diverse opinions, foster dialogue on important social issues and exert positive influence on stakeholders and society. However, evidence is contradictory as to whether this is the case; it is possible that millennials' behaviors on social media are mainly driven by conservation (conformity and safety) or self-enhancement (power and achievement). In this research, the authors examine the extent to which different human values (self-transcendence, conservation, self-enhancement and openness to change) influence millennials' activities and behaviors on social media.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors conduct three separate surveys on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with 491 millennials (18–34 years of age) in the USA, examining the influence of four higher-order values of the Schwartz human values model (open self-transcendence, conservation, self-enhancement and openness to change) on specific social media activities (consumption, self-focused and sharing nonpersonal content activities).

Findings

First, the authors find that for millennial users, human values significantly influence social media activities. Second, conservation values, followed by self-enhancement values, overshadow the expression of open self-transcendence values on social media. Thus, social media platforms may function more as agents of conservation and self-enhancement than agents of personal growth.

Originality/value

This is among the first studies to examine the influence of human values on social media and to find that human values such as conservation and self-enhancement have a strong influence on users' social media activities, while open self-transcendence values, which lead to expansion and growth, do not find genuine expression on social media.

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