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The Negative Effects of Social Networking: Porter's Five Forces Model

Natalie Frank, a Ph.D in clinical psychology, specializes in pediatrics, health psychology, and behavioral medicine.


New technology, in particular advances related to the internet, has helped people to overcome barriers in communication that are related to time and space. The internet allows individuals to communicate at any time of the day or night, no matter how far apart in distance the two parties may be. The social ramifications of the internet and social media platforms would seem to be ideal for obtaining a better understanding of other cultures, establishing contacts worldwide, strengthening business and personal relationships, communicating more effectively and in a more timely manner, and generally helping users become more socially skilled.

However, while there are many social benefits to the internet, some advances may lead to increased distraction, stress, isolation, and other negative effects for some individuals. While many people now boast numerous internet relationships, it is not unusual for some to find the quality of those relationships to be lacking. Furthermore, it is easy to alter your personal characteristics online due to the degree of anonymity involved. A number of people begin subtlety altering what they perceive to be negative characteristics of themselves like their age or interests but end up inaccurately representing so many things about themselves they lose sight of who they are.

For good or bad, it is clear that modern technology has had an enormous impact on what it means to be social. While the social implications of new internet technology, especially social media platforms and apps, may increase efficiency in work and professional areas, they can also result in social alienation, loneliness, and the loss of self through inaccurate profiles intended to improve image and reputation.

Here, we will explore whether the negative aspects of the internet and social media platforms outweigh the positive aspects. Porter’s Five Forces Model will also be presented and a case made for increased accountability regarding potential negative effects of social media platforms.

Porters Five Forces Model

Porter’s Five Forces Model (1980), examines five specific elements that contribute to the profitability of a business based on other businesses in the same industry. These factors include, “threat of new entrants, threat of substitution, bargaining power of buyers, bargaining power of suppliers and rivalry amongst existing competition.” Porter’s model has some support in terms of simplicity, predictive and explanatory power, and generalizability (Miller & Dess, 1993).

Competitive rivalry

Competitive rivalry looks at how strong the competition is based on the amount of competitors and the abilities of each. Competition is great when there aren’t many businesses existing that are selling the same products or services, when the type of business is growing, and when customers can move to a competitor’s product for little money without much effort. When this occurs, often there are price wars and the need for expensive advertising platforms which affect the businesses profit margin. Competition is determined by the percentage of market share the four biggest firms in the industry own.

Given how well-established the major social media platforms are and how the successful competition managed to succeed against sites like Facebook by specializing in for example, photos, music, or professional services, new competition has little chance of entering the market unless they are willing to spend a great deal of money. The established social media sites are aware that to stay on top they must constantly upgrade services to entice customers to stay with them. Those already involved with a site will be reluctant to leave it especially if it offers regular perks to stay. This keeps people involved in social media platforms and leads to increased use.

Suppliers' bargaining power

The bargaining power of suppliers indicates whether a business’s supplier has the ability to raise prices which would lower profitability. With a lower number of suppliers, there is a greater ability to raise prices. When there are a large number, the business has more power to resist price hikes. This is also effected by the cost of switching, whether there are available substitutes and the cost of the substitutes. There is a single pool of suppliers for social media sites. The suppliers for the biggest social media sites are not going to want to risk losing them and so the business has the power in this situation.

Customers' bargaining power

The bargaining power of customers represents how much customers can affect prices and quality. When there are few customers, little differentiates a business from it’s competitors, and it is easy to switch customer bargaining power is high. With the millions of customers using the major social media sites and the specialization of many of them, customer bargaining power is low. Also, users invest a lot of time and energy setting up profiles, gathering networks and creating content for each site so switching is hard. The more involved a customer becomes with a social media site the more invested they are in staying and in using it. This reinforces people’s involvement with social media sites.

The threat of new competition

The threat of new entrants or how easy it is for brand new competitors to enter the market is another factor that has little influence on the major social media sites. Again, given the size, the degree to which a platform is established, the number of customers. The specialization and the attachment to sites affected by such factors as amount of time and effort invested in content and network establishment, makes the threat of new entrants low.

The threat of substitute products

The threat of substitute products or services also does not have much effect on social media platforms since sites are not interchangeable, each being unique in some major way. The likelihood of people switching between platforms is effected by the cost of switching and the inclination of customers that would lead them to switch. With the major social media stations there either is not an equal platform to switch to or the inclination to switch is absent do to attachment to sites as previously described.

Built-in barriers to competition

In an effort to prevent competition from becoming a major problem, barriers are used such as site improvement, the addition of features, and the creation of a free mobile app, all of which further encourage use through popularity. The same features that a brand uses to make it unattractive for competitors to enter the market are exactly what makes the brand attractive to increasing numbers of users. This sets up brand loyalty and encourages frequent site use in order to take advantage of new advances and features (Chapman, 2009). These factors go a long way to explaining how social media platforms become extremely popular with large segments of the population However, the model fails to address whether negative outcomes for users act to decrease use or if not, now these negative effects may increase over time. It stands to reason that the prevalence of online social interaction could serve to pressure individuals to continue using these platforms despite negative effects.


The Impact of Internet Use on Social Relationships and Adjustment

Past research has reported the effects of general internet use on a variety of indicators of social well-being. Initial studies demonstrated that greater internet use was associated with decreased family communication, as well as the size of both nearby and distant networks. A well-known study, the Home Net Project, showed that those who spent a large amount of time on social media sites self-reported greater levels of loneliness, social-isolation, and a larger number of daily stressors that those who did not use social media sites as much (Strickland, 2014).

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Depression and loneliness

Greater social media use has also been associated with a higher incidence of depression. This relationship has been replicated across many different social media sites over time. Follow-up research showed that personality characteristics increased the effects of social media use on mood. Introverted individuals using social media reported a decline in community and in person social involvement and greater loneliness compared to extroverted individuals.

The relationship between Internet use and loneliness was also studies but additional researchers who confirmed that high levels of internet use in time were associated with loneliness. However, in one study the relationship was negative for social loneliness such that high levels of internet use was associated with low levels of social loneliness. Internet use was positively associated with emotional loneliness such that high levels of use were related to more emotional loneliness in the form of intimate relationships. This suggests that online relationships did not satisfy the need for true, deep emotional connections in social relationships..

One study flipped the variables looking at how loneliness and depression were associated with problematic internet use. They examined social anxiety as a mediating effect. Findings indicated that social anxiety did mediate the relationship between depression and loneliness and problematic internet use such that social anxiety accounted for the relationship and was also directly related to negative effects from internet use as well.

Another variable shown to be important in this area of study was how the internet was used.. Internet use for non-communicative purposes was demonstrated to be related to physiological well-being such that this variable was a negative influence being associated with loneliness and depression. This outcome was largely attributed to the lessening of social integration both in person and online.

Social anxiety

Internet use for non-communicative purposes was also associated with social anxiety. Results indicated that individuals who were socially anxious tended to use the internet because it was more comfortable to communicate when not in person and when there was time to think before responding. Those with low social skills however, appeared to prefer activities that were not communication related, So the social anxiety group could be divided into those who feared rejection but had the social skill to interact compared to those who did not have the social skills to interact.

The Effects of Social Media Use on Adjustment and Well-Being

One of the main purposes people use the Internet for is to communicate and interact with others. Through email, instant messaging, social networking platforms, blogs, Twitter, and other means, the internet offers a large number of options for connecting with other people. Additionally, since the internet is now practically everywhere, people can meet others from across the globe without ever leaving home. With mobile technology now commonplace, people can even take their social networking on the go. However, researchers have questioned how all this online relating effects an individual’s real life social relationships, sense of self, and sense of loneliness or alienation.

Social networking

Some research has suggested that the use of social networking, specifically, can negatively affect social relationships especially with individuals the person knows offline and on their sense of well-being. Compared with face-to-face interactions or talking over the phone in real time, studies have shown that the quality of communication through social media channels is significantly poorer In particular, and limits the ability to build stronger, emotionally satisfying relationships. As many people now have been shown to maintain the majority of their relationships on the internet, the lack of satisfying relationships effects people’s overall sense of well-being. With the number of social media networks an individual can get involved with sometimes keeping up with interactions online can become overwhelming and stressful. This is particularly true when individuals feel pressured to join new social networks to maintain communication and connections in existing relationships (Pollet, Roberts & Dunbar, 2011).

Studying online relationships

More recent studies showed that social networking quality rather than frequency was the important variable when investigating negative mental health such that low quality was associated with depression and a sense of social rejection. Additional research examined the mechanism that accounted for the relationship between social media activity and negative mental health outcomes, determining that Facebook users who used others profiles as a means of negative comparison were more likely to be depressed and lonely. Yet they also determined that this was because negative social comparisons lead to rumination, so the tendency to focus on and think about the negative comparison even when not online accounted for much of the relationship. This type of study allowed for an increased understanding of the relationship between social networking and negative psychological and social outcomes and underscored the importance of looking at the process variables that occur during social network relationships and communication that could be problematic. This will further break down the pathogenic components that result as a function of using social networking to establish relationship in place of in person connections.

Negative Effects of Social Networking

Concluding Remarks on Porter’s Five Forces Model and Negative Effects of Social Media

The factors included in Porter’s Model seem to successfully account for and explain many of the reason that specific social media brands attract such a large number of users. The rapid technological advances that are common today allow social media platform developers to add and change components of their brand based on observed popularity of features, user feedback and user increase/decrease. Many aspects of social life today are carried out online which makes this market particularly lucrative and thus analyzing what contributes to gaining new and consistent followers is important from the point of view of the developers.

Yet the popularity of social media sites also makes online social participation practically a requirement in today’s society which may not be preferable for everyone. Additionally, as social media developers are focused on profit, they fail to attend to the long term effects their technology may lead to for those using their platforms. So while social media companies may feel their only responsibility is to shareholders, it is becoming increasingly evident that there should be some accountability for the effects of the technology. A degree of responsibility should be assumed for basic remediation to at least acknowledge and examine potential negative effects, if not work to address these effects through education and additional resources.


Chapman, C. (2009). The history and evolution of social media. Retrieved from the WebDesigner Depot Web site: http://www. webdesignerdepot. com/2009/10/the-history-and-evolutionof-social-media.

Feinstein, B. A., Hershenberg, R., Bhatia, V., Latack, J. A., Meuwly, N., & Davila, J. (2013). Negative social comparison on Facebook and depressive symptoms: Rumination as a mechanism. Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 2(3), 161.

Greysen, S. R., Kind, T., & Chretien, K. C. (2010). Online professionalism and the mirror of social media. Journal of general internal medicine, 25(11), 1227-1229.

Miller, A., & Dess, G. G. (1993). Assessing Porter's (1980) model in terms of its generalizability, accuracy and simplicity. Journal of Management Studies, 30(4), 553-585.

Pollet, T. V., Roberts, S. G., & Dunbar, R. I. (2011). Use of social network sites and instant messaging does not lead to increased offline social network size, or to emotionally closer relationships with offline network members. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 14(4), 253-258.

Porter, M. E. (1980). Porter’s Five Forces Model. Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors.

Strickland, A. C. (2014). Exploring the effects of social media use on the mental health of young adults (Doctoral dissertation, University of Central Florida Orlando, Florida).

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2017 Natalie Frank

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