If you thought young people posting content on social media that contains sexual or offensive material was just being impulsive, think again! A new study says that such risky posts might be a deliberate strategy to fit in with the wider social media culture.
Young adults think it is the best way to behave, said lead researcher Claire White from the University of Plymouth in England.
To measure risky online self-presentation, the research team designed a risk exposure scale relating to potentially inappropriate images or texts, such as drug and alcohol use, sexual content, personal information, and offensive material.
They also evaluated people's level of self-monitoring and impulsivity.
"The results show that high self-monitors are just as likely to post risky content as those in the study who are more impulsive, which suggests they think it's not only OK to be risky -- and potentially offensive — but that it's actually the right thing to do," White said.
For the study, published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behaviour, and Social Networking, 178 British and Italian participants were recruited to complete an online questionnaire. All were undergraduate students, who received course credit for their participation.
"The only notable difference between the nationalities was that British students were more likely to post comments and images related to their alcohol and drug use on social media, whereas their Italian counterparts were more likely to post offensive content and personal information," White said.
"This difference shows that culture as a whole seems to play a part in what type of content is shared. But the fact that the behaviors predicting risky online choices are the same for both nationalities suggests there's a wider social media culture that encourages this type of risk-taking behavior," White added.