The social side of sustainability: Well-being as a driver and an outcome of social relationships and interactions on social networking sites

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Publication date: Available online 6 July 2017
Source:Technological Forecasting and Social Change

Author(s): Andreas Munzel, Lars Meyer-Waarden, Jean-Philippe Galan

Although social sustainability involves processes that promote well-being, it is often neglected in the sustainability debate. Social networking sites (SNSs) such as Facebook are now pervasive venues for constant interpersonal communication and interaction, as well as general social connectedness. The debate between cyberoptimists and cyberpessimists about the implications of SNS use for well-being persists. The present study adopts a social sustainability perspective and seeks to further elucidate two competing hypotheses; thus, subjective well-being is included as a driver and an outcome of SNS use and social network characteristics. We conducted a survey of 678 Facebook users across various age categories and then applied a two-step approach to analyze the data. The results reveal that although the structural parameters seem to widely support the social enhancement hypothesis, a more differentiated analysis shows that highly extraverted individuals spend more time on Facebook when they are unhappy. Furthermore, the more time that such extraverts spend on Facebook, the more they believe that it improves their overall well-being. This finding is further supported by our identification of a four-class structure in which a clear distinction of users emerges based on age, gender, and extraversion.

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