Are we more likely to follow through with resolutions we post on social media?
We reached out to experts, from clinical psychologists and goal-setting theorists to a cultural critic, to get some answers in time for 2016.
Though the focus of most New Year’s resolutions is on identifying personal goals, the tradition has a communal feel. After all, everybody’s doing it. And if you’ve checked your Facebook or Twitter feeds in the last month, you’re bound to be privy to the 2016 goals—some tongue-in-cheek, some deadly earnest—of your great-aunt Sally, all those high school friends you haven’t seen in almost a decade, and the randos.
All this pressure to tell the world your flaws and how you plan to change them in the next 12 months has got us wondering. Are we more likely to follow through with goals that we post to social media? We reached out to experts, from clinical psychologists and goal-setting theorists to a cultural critic, to get some answers in time for 2016.
Director, Behavioral Analytics at ClickTale
Social media platforms are sometimes used as a mirror through which we observe ourselves. We put a lot of time and effort into this self-customization because we’re re-inventing a more positive version of ourselves, whether consciously or subconsciously. This is reflected in the composition of our carefully selected profile elements. We present our most attractive photos; list favorite movies, music and books that we feel will impress others; and send friend requests to not only our friends and family, but to the people we respect and want to be associated with.
Self-perception theory (SPT) asserts that people develop their attitudes by observing their own behavior and then make conclusions about the attitudes that must have been responsible for the behavior. Thus, the individual interprets his/her own overt behaviors rationally, in the same way s/he attempts to explain others’ behaviors. This helps to explain how one’s own social media profile can promote positive self-perception and contribute to our psychological well-being.
Posting a goal on our social media generates commitment. First of all—we’re committing to ourselves. In order to preserve our positive self-perception, we have to follow through and achieve the goal we’ve set. We can think of our posts as a diary that is exposed to everyone. The very fact that I post it makes it more perceptible compared with telling something to myself or to my friend directly.
In addition, there is the “AA effect.” AA members meet in groups to help one another achieve and maintain abstinence from alcohol. The type of social support specifically given by AA members, such as 24-hour availability, role modeling and experiential-based advice for staying sober may help explain AA’s mechanism of action. There is a powerful influence of enduring environmental features in shaping behavior, which exceeds that of transitory features.
Professor of Psychology
SOCIAL MEDIA is an excellent way of ensuring goal commitment, especially to a specific, challenging goal. People want to be, and they want to be seen by others as, personally effective. They also want to be, and to be seen as, an individual with integrity—by doing what they said they would do. Informing the world through social media that they are going to commit to attaining a goal increases the probability that they will, in fact, do so. Public affirmations are highly effective and social media is an effective medium for making them.
John C. Norcross,
Professor of Psychology
Tis that time of the year again: about 40% of adults in the United States will make New Year’s resolutions, continuing a tradition that began in ancient Roman times. Romans would make resolutions of good conduct to the two-faced deity Janus, for whom the month of January is named.
Associates and I have conducted multiple studies on self-change in general and New Year’s resolutions in particular. In fact, about 40% of serious New Year’s resolvers will prove successful at six months. Contrary to widespread public opinion, a considerable proportion of New Year resolvers do succeed.
Our research studies tracking resolvers over time reveal that public declarations of goals, as opposed to private promises, tend to increase success. Probably for several reasons: Public declarations increase accountability; raise the stakes and embarrassment for failures; and in the best of circumstances, may increase social support.
Decades of research conclude that social support and helping relationships boost success rates. The buddy system works! And buddies can be coworkers, family members, friends, online followers or support groups.
Support makes the largest impact not in the first few weeks of the new goal but about a month into it. It seems that internal inspiration and commitment can get people through for a couple of weeks, but then helping relationships and a positive environment become more important over time, as temptations escalate and lapses appear.
While posted goals and other public declarations do tend to help, their effect is small. That is, a social media post exerts a modest influence on long-term effectiveness. To that, consider these additional evidence-based skills:
Tracking your progress by recording or charting your changed behavior.
Research indicates that such “self-monitoring” increases the probability of keeping that goal.
Arranging your environment to help, rather than hinder, you. Limit exposure to high-risk situations and create positive reminders. Trigger healthy behaviors.
Rewarding your successes. Reinforce yourself for each step with a (healthy) treat or compliment. Perhaps create a reward contract with a loved one.
Building a healthy behavior incompatible with your problem. For example, learn assertion if your goal is to be less passive, or learn to relax if you are resolved to decrease stress.
Preparing for slips associated with negative emotions and social pressures. Create a “slip plan” to deal with those situations. Consider, for example, leaving the pressured situation, distracting yourself, calling a friend, and reminding yourself that a slip (lapse) need not be a fall (relapse).
Recent research demonstrates texting and notification apps have a positive impact on reaching goals, probably through a combination of self-monitoring, reminders, and rewards. Apps may help in this regard. (Disclosure: I consult with several such companies, including Brighter.) Apps help people get started and stay on track with their goals by sending proven tips, actions, and reminders via mobile notifications.
So, if you have a realistic goal and an action plan to achieve it, by all means post it! Then add other research-proven skills to ensure you follow through with your goal in the long term.
Top New Year's resolutions for 2015
Spend less, save more
Enjoy life to the fullest
The quick answer is that any time we write a goal down, and particularly when we make that goal public in front of other people, we’re more likely to follow through. Marathon runners who wrote down a time goal, for example, ran 6 minutes faster.
Writing it down makes it harder for us to wiggle out. Same with making a goal public. If we’ve told other people we’re going to lose weight, we want to be consistent, so we’re more likely to stick to what we said we’d do.
of Americans make New Year's resolutions
There are a lot of things that help people follow through with setting goals, but many of those things are not important if the goal itself is not constructed well. For example, some common New Year’s goals are to “lose weight” and “save more money.” The issue with both of these is that they are just ideas, not well thought out goal statements.
More complete goal statements for these would be “lose 10 pounds by March 1, and maintain it through next New Year’s Eve” and “save $50 more per month for the entire year.”
The reason these are better is because they are more specific, progress can be measured, they would be attainable, and they have a time frame. When goals like this are shared, there’s more chance that they will make progress, if not reach them.
Getting back to the original question, making one social media post might increase some short term behaviors, but who really cares in July about a tweet you made in January? To really get the benefit of social media and goals, set up a system where every day/week/month you share the progress on your goals. Doing so will keep it alive for you and your friends and family.
are successful in achieving their resolutions