According to the research, which was published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, social-zapping is defined as the tendency to cancel plans at “short notice,” usually in “favour of supposedly better alternatives”.
While everyone cancels last minute on occasion, researchers noted that social-zappers are distinct in that their behaviour is more than just an annoying tendency, as these individuals tend to make these “self-serving and/or impulsive short-sighted decisions at the expense of others”.
To study the traits associated with social-zapping, researchers from the Department of General Psychology: Cognition and Center for Behavioral Addiction Research (CeBAR) at the University of Duisburg-Essen and the Erwin L Hahn Institute for Magnetic Resonance Imaging asked 190 participants aged 17 to 30 to fill out a survey “assessing different personality facets and social zapping tendency”.
According to the researchers, the questionnaire included various personality scales, including the Dark Triad, which comprises the personality traits of narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy, as well as scales for determining impulsiveness, procrastination and fear of missing out (FOMO).
Upon analysing the results of the questionnaires, the researchers found that all of the traits except for fear of missing out were positively linked to social-zapping behaviour.
Of the Dark Triad traits, Machiavellianism and narcissism were found to be the highest predictors of whether an individual would engage in social-zapping, with researchers also noting that “attentional impulsivity and the timeliness dimension of procrastination” played a part as well.
In psychology, Machiavellianism refers to an individual who focuses on their own self-interests and who will resort to deceptive and calculated means of reaching their goals, while narcissism is defined as “a grandiose sense of self-importance, a lack of empathy for others, a need for excessive admiration, and the belief that one is unique and deserving of special treatment”.
As for why fear of missing out was found to be a negative predictor of social-zapping, researchers pointed out that the trait includes a “prosocial desire to stay involved in what other people are doing,” according to PsyPost.
Overall, the researchers stated that social-zapping is a “phenomenon of inherent self-interest, where individuals cancel appointments spontaneously (at the last minute) with others to pursue options they deem best for themselves,” but one that they acknowledge requires more research to fully understand.