The Secondary Gain of Social Media

  • You could be forgiven for think that social media like Facebook, Twitter and the plethora of other sites are firmly here to stay.  They have become so inextricably entwined in our daily lives that it would be hard to imagine the World without them.  Business uses them in their marketing, even the news agencies employ them whilst at the same time keeping a weather eye on them for breaking news stories.  Indeed, the moment I press “Publish” on this post it will automatically place links on my Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn pages.  But what of the secondary gain that social media fosters?Social MediaI’ve written about secondary gain in this blog before.  Simply it is that urge to hold on to a problem because the individual is getting some other benefit from it, e.g. sympathy, attention and so on.  As the title of my previous post on the subject infers, it really can be the enemy of therapeutic change.  But why do I write about it in connection with social media?

    Well last night I was scrolling down the status updates that have appeared on my personal Facebook account in the last 24 hours.  It suddenly occurred to me that there were a large amount of negative updates.  People having had a bad day or even the odd argument going on!  In themselves not such a bad thing.  The act of writing (or typing in this case) your feelings can be extremely cathartic and a great tool for “getting it off ones chest”.  But, then comes the “Tea and Sympathy” secondary gain of all the comments below such a status update.  There were a startling number of them last night!  One such negative status had 104 comments on it!  So my question is; If that person had got it off their chest with friends and family how much secondary gain would they have gotten in return?  Is social media amplifying secondary gain?

    In my opinion it is and this is not necessarily a good thing!  Therapists of any discipline must always be mindful of the secondary gain their clients are receiving as part of their presenting issue.  But in secondary gain being amplified in this way, could there also be a further knock-on effect of addiction?  Certainly, I’ve found that I can count on certain people in my “Friends List” to offer up all manner of negativity.  So in becoming addicted to the secondary gain this affords them, are they also by default becoming addicted to social media and the wider Internet as a whole?  For some time now, therapists have started to see the first internet addicted clients coming through their collective door and I think social media has a very large part to play in this.

    Like all things, moderation is the key.  Too much of anything, good or bad, can turn into a bad thing.    It’s certainly an area I’ll be keeping a very close eye on in the future.


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