Motives for online friending and following: The dark side of social network site connections

J.W. Ouwerkerk, B.K. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Motives for “friending,” following, or connecting with others on social network sites are often positive, but darker motives may also play an important role. A survey with a novel Following Motives Scale (FMS) demonstrates accordingly that positive, sociable motives (i.e., others providing a valued source for humor and information, others sharing a common background, as well as relationship maintenance) and inspirational motives (i.e., others providing a target for upward social comparison) can be distinguished from darker motives related to insecurity (i.e., others providing reassurance, preference for online interaction, mediated voyeurism, as well as social obligation), and even darker antisocial motives related to self-enhancement (i.e., others providing a target for downward social comparison, competition, schadenfreude, gossip, as well as “hate-following”). Results show that lower self-esteem and higher levels of need for popularity, narcissism, and dispositional schadenfreude characterize users with stronger dark side motives, whereas users with more sociable motives report more satisfaction with life, thereby providing construct validity for the novel scale. Convergent validity is demonstrated by positive relations between following motives and both time spent and following counts on different social network sites. Moreover, an embedded experiment shows that antisocial motives predicted acceptance of a Facebook friendship request from a male or female high school acquaintance that suffered a setback in the domain of appearance or status (i.e., a convenient source for self-enhancement), thereby providing additional convergent validity for the antisocial motives subscale.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalSocial Media + Society
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2016


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