Facebook Friends As ‘Big Brother’: Mom Knows About Your Spanx and Bike Shorts Fetish

Aunt Maggie wants to know why you need that cortisone

Facebook friends’ judgments of online purchasing habits have an effect on spending, according to one study. In The ‘Conspicuous Purchase’ Effect by David Neal and Claudia Townsend, the authors say Facebook and Twitter sharing icons attached to a product’s web page can influence a consumer’s decision-making. The Wall Street Journal‘s “Ideas Market” blog reports that when people factor in their social network connections, they think twice about potentially embarrassing purchases:

In the study, nearly 200 people, ages 16 to 45, rated their likelihood of buying items presented on a mock shopping site. Men considered Clearasil and bike shorts, while women pondered Spanx — body-shaping underwear — and fashionable perfume.

For the zit medicine and girdle-by-another-name, ratings on an “intend to purchase” scale were 25% lower when social-media symbols were present. For the athletic shorts and popular fragrance, the likelihood of buying rose by about the same amount.

Consumer age or actual Internet usage level didn’t really matter.

Study author David Neal said even those not invested in Facebooking or tweeting every little, tiny, insignificant, ridiculous detail of their existence could be “shaped” by the vague prospect others–parents, girlfriend from junior year, widowed aunt–might learn they purchased Clearasil or something spandex from Body Glove. Mr. Neal indicated the buttons tend to leave users feeling they are under some sort of surveillance.

Even when Facebook isn’t stalking, people still feel stalked. Facebook Friends As ‘Big Brother’: Mom Knows About Your Spanx and Bike Shorts Fetish