Kent State Professor Researches Link Between Genetics and Social Media Use
A person’s genetic makeup influences how frequently he or she uses social media, according to research by Chance York, Ph.D., assistant professor in Kent State University’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
York conducted the research by comparing survey responses between sets of fraternal and identical twins – an approach that has been widely used to study how political views, among other things, are influenced by genetic traits. He found that while both types of twins showed similarities in social media use when compared with one another, the correlation was stronger in identical twins. Specifically, he found that about two-thirds of a person’s social media use is attributable to our underlying genetic traits. He cautioned, however, that this does not mean a person’s social media habits are “predetermined” when he or she is born.
“I would speculate that there’s probably a gene or a set of genes that influence things like extraversion and introversion and sociability, and that probably then impacts whether you’re seeking out (social or other media) to fulfill certain needs,” York says. “There’s not a specific gene that tells you how to use social media, but genes do indirectly influence personality traits that might, in turn, impact media selection and behavior.”
Outside of the genetic factors, the other third of one’s social media habits are influenced by social forces: the household environment kids are raised in, what parents teach them about technology and interpersonal communication, peer and teacher influence, and so on.
“What you can do as a parent, is work on that other third, which is probably explained by how you socialize your kids to use technology and communicate with others,” York says.
York’s research was recently published in the journal Computers and Human Behavior, and he presented it at the International Communication Association Convention in San Diego in May.
York plans to take this research a step further by collecting original data from twins at the Twins Day Festival in Twinsburg, Ohio in August. He will use this data to look more closely at specific sets of twins and their characteristics, considering how both genes and environment may affect a person’s social media and communication habits.