“Am I a Leader or a Follower?”: Examining Social Media Use Through the Lens of Social Conformity and Individuality
The importance of the role social media plays in modern communication has become increasingly evident. As an information-sharing platform, it allows users to collaborate, befriend others, and identify key social issues or engage in friendly banter. As such, it became apparent that further research on social media would allow us to gain further insight into a user’s willingness to self-express online. This led to the inquiry of three research questions such that the first question seeks to examine if social media promotes conformity, followed by if social media can promote individuality and lastly if a fear of being labelled affects self-expression. To study this phenomenon, we created an anonymous online survey to broadcast to the McMaster University undergraduate population. This survey garnered 37 complete responses which we then analyzed using statistical software and thematic analysis. It was found that social media promotes conformity more than it does individuality due to the lingering fear of being labelled by fellow users. In an increasingly digital world, it is essential that we commit to understanding the serious impact that usage of these platforms is having on peoples’ ways of communicating and expressing themselves.