Connections across the ages: facebook use and self-determination theory

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Clark, R & Moloney, G 2017, 'Connections across the ages: facebook use and self-determination theory', abstract presented to the Southern Cross University 14th Annual Honours Psychology Research Conference, Southern Cross University, Coffs Harbour, 5-6 October.

Abstract available on Open Access


Aim: Self-Determination Theory argues that feeling related, competent and autonomous is crucial for wellbeing at all ages. However, some contexts facilitate these psychological needs more effectively than others. Meeting these needs can become more difficult in certain environments in late adulthood, which has the potential to lead to negative physical and psychological outcomes. The popular social networking site, Facebook, has been found to foster relatedness across age groups and, to some extent, competence and independence among older Facebook users. Whilst the relationship between Facebook and relatedness needs has been established, the effects of Facebook use on competence and autonomy needs have not been investigated. Drawing from the Self-Determination Theory, the current study examined whether Facebook use affects relatedness, competence and autonomy needs in older adults. Method: In Study 1, university staff and students (n = 337; Mage= 39) completed an online survey measuring Facebook use and the three psychological needs: relatedness, competence and autonomy. In Study 2, adults aged 65 years and over (n = 131; Mage= 71) completed the same online survey, and were also asked about their level of mobility. Results: Principal components analysis of the psychological needs items revealed three factors measuring relatedness, competence and autonomy. For the older adult sample, frequency of Facebook use was positively correlated with self-reported relatedness needs, and negatively correlated with mobility. Multivariate analysis of variance found a significant effect of frequency of Facebook use on the psychological needs overall, with a significant effect on relatedness needs specifically. Further analyses revealed a significant difference between high and low Facebook use on relatedness needs. Conclusions: These findings indicate that more frequent Facebook use could facilitate relatedness needs in older adults, and suggest that less mobile older adults may use Facebook more frequently. Implications and recommendations for further research are discussed.