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Uploading Risk: Examining the Social Profile of Young Adults Most Susceptible to Engagement in Risky Social Media Challenges
Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking  (IF4.157),  Pub Date : 2021-12-07, DOI: 10.1089/cyber.2020.0846
Shannon Ward, Tara M. Dumas, Ankur Srivastava, Jordan P. Davis, Wendy Ellis

The aim of this study was to determine the social profile of individuals who are most at risk of engaging in risky social media challenges (RSMCs). Young adults (N = 331, 56.3 percent female) aged 18–25 years (Mage = 21.4) completed an online survey in which they indicated which RSMCs they had done (e.g., Cinnamon Challenge, Fire Challenge), and completed measures of social motives (i.e., need to belong, need for popularity, and fear of missing out [FoMO]) and perceived social status (i.e., popularity and peer belonging). Results demonstrated that almost half (48.3 percent) of participants had engaged in at least one RSMC. Furthermore, findings from a latent-class analysis revealed a three-class solution. Participants in Class 1 (stable social position, low social motives) had moderate-to-high probabilities for perceived popularity and peer belonging, but low probabilities for all three social motives. Participants in Class 2 (high perceived popularity and related concerns) had the highest probability for perceived popularity, need to be popular, and FoMO, and participants in Class 3 (high need to belong) had the highest probability for need to belong, but the lowest probabilities for need to be popular and perceived popularity. Although results differed somewhat by gender, overall, and in line with hypotheses, participants in Class 2 (high perceived popularity and related concerns) were most at risk for engagement in RSMCs. Thus, results suggest that engagement in RSMCs may be more about standing out and gaining online popularity and attention than about fitting in with peers. These findings contribute to a larger conversation about the provision of popularity markers on social media (likes, views) and their ability to shape young people's behavior.