Gene-By-Environment Contribution to Understand Behavior on Social Media

The hypothesis that genetic features influence behavior and social interactions has been corroborated in several studies [for a review, see (109)], and so is the notion that human behavior and psychological traits are modulated by the interaction between genetic variation and environmental factors (21). Due to the intrinsic interactional nature of social media platforms, it is important to deepen the exploration of concurrent factors that could explain underlying mechanisms related to online interaction adopting integrated methodologies widely used for offline social behavior, that is, the gene-by-environment interaction framework. Few studies report results about genetic contribution in Internet-related usage. Two studies on Turkish twins on communication and social media reported that genetic and environmental effects were equally influential on problematic Internet usage especially in male twin-pairs (110). Another twin study highlighted the impact of genetics on mobile phone use (111). These results have been corroborated by a more recent investigation by York, who focused specifically on social media use (e.g., contact friends and contact family) even after controlling for demographic factors (112). A recent study by Deryakulu and Ursava¸s examines the extent to which nomophobia can be explained by genetic and environmental factors, revealing that the dimensions which were more explained by genes were “losing connectedness” and “giving up convenience,” while environmental factors were more related to the fear of “not being able to communicate” and “not being able to access” (113). Familiar context represents a factor of great interest in shaping social behavior, especially at the developmental stage, and perception of parental warmth or intrusiveness can influence social media usage in adolescents. With regard to the genetic contribution within the frame of recalled parental bonding, a recent exploration found that people who are genetically more sensitive to environmental factors, represented by oxytocin receptor polymorphisms, with a history of perceived high maternal overprotection tend to show a higher social desirability index on Instagram (114). This index, which describes the ratio between the number of following and followed profiles, could be used for future studies to unveil some tendencies underlying user behavior on Instagram.

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