Frequent Facebook users who intensely browse and post on the social media site are likely to be materialistic, scientists claim.

Researchers say these people are likely to have significantly more friends than those who are less interested in material possessions.

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They are also more likely to see their friends as “digital objects” and have a greater need to compare themselves with others on Facebook, the researchers add.

According to the scientist from Ruhr-University Bochum in Germany, materialistic people use Facebook to feel good and achieve their goals.

They even coined a new conceptual term for this: The Social Online Self-Regulation Theory.

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Lead author Phillip Ozimek said: “Materialistic people use Facebook more frequently because they tend to objectify their Facebook friends – they acquire Facebook friends to increase their possession.

“Facebook provides the perfect platform for social comparisons, with millions of profiles and information about people. And it’s free – materialists love tools that do not cost money.”

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The researchers first conducted an online test with 242 users to measure certain aspects of their behaviour, including their Facebook activity, materialistic desires and objectification of friends on the site.

Statements, which the participants had to rate, included “I’m posting photographs”, “My life would be better if I owned certain things I don’t have”, “To what extent do you think Facebook friends are useful in order to attain your goals?” and “I often compare how I am doing socially”, were part of the questionnaire.

The results suggested a link between materialism and Facebook activity.

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The authors then replicated the approach with a separate sample of 289 Facebook users and found similar results but are keen to point out their findings should not cast social media in a negative light.

Ozimek said: “Social media platforms are not that different from other activities in life – they are functional tools for people who want to attain goals in life, and some might have negative consequences for them or society.

“We found that materialists instrumentalise their friends, but they also attain their goal to compare themselves to others.

“It seems to us that Facebook is like a knife: it can be used for preparing yummy food or it can be used for hurting a person. In a way, our model provides a more neutral perspective on social media.”

The research is published in Heliyon, an open access journal from Elsevier.

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