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Difference between Social Media & Video Games 

By Jiow Hee Jhee (Associate Professor) and Beatrice Wu (Student) from Singapore Institute of Technology

In the third quarter of 2022, the average time spent using the internet by Singaporeans aged 16–64 was around 7 hours a day. (Feb 2023) Youths commonly turn to social media and video games in their free time. Based on a global study on Gen Zs aged 16–24, almost nine out of 10 Gen Zs game on any device (GWI, 2023, Pg 32). Additionally, they are spending 41% of their online time on social media, which is an all-time high. (GWI, 2023, Pg 40)

While technology empowers our world, it can be a good servant but a bad master. To responsibly manage our use of technology, it is crucial we understand how to differentiate social media from video games. Additionally, it can help us better understand and relate to our youth, so that we can have meaningful conversations with them.


Firstly, let’s begin by understanding what social media is. For a platform to be defined as ‘social media’, it must fulfil or offer the following requirements (Strategic Communications, Easy Media) 

  1. The creation and sharing of content online instantly.
  2. Two-way “conversation” (engagements, direct private messaging)
  3. The creation of bonds for people regardless of where they are
  4. Web space to upload content
  5. A unique web address for all their users to post and share all their content.
  6. Users can build a profile with personal details.
  7. The chance to connect with people
  8. Communication tools
  9. Timestamps on all posts

In January 2023, prominent social media apps preferred in Singapore included YouTube, Instagram, WhatsApp, TikTok, and Facebook (We Are Social, Pg. 59).

Let’s see how different platforms fare against the earlier definition of social media.


Video games are defined as “an electronic or computerised game played by manipulating images on a video display or television screen”(Prato, Feijoo, Nepelski, Bogdanowicz, & Simon, 2010, p. 17). It comprises the following elements: 

  1. A software to play
  2. An output device, like an audiovisual apparatus
  3. Tools as input devices for the user to control and interact with them.

The table below is a summarised version of the classification of genres of video games based on the previous COMEBACK post, which is attached here. You may refer to the link for more information and learn how to manage game time limits and boundaries.


By examining the main functions they serve, we are able to see the difference.

By Design

Social media is designed primarily for communication between users. Features like private messaging, commenting on posts and stories, and sending relevant content or memes to others open opportunities to chat and interact about topics under the sun. These conversations may have a wide scope and be fluid in their topics. While gameplay can be one of the topics, social media interactions may not necessarily be centred on it.

However, video games are not the same as social media. The primary purpose is largely for gameplay and not as much for socialising. In-game communication is a supporting feature in video games, allowing players to coordinate gameplay in real time. Through conversations centred around gameplay, other conversational topics may also arise. Since the primary purpose of gaming is not socialising, some users may choose to limit or disable the in-game chat functions completely. Moreover, in-game chats generally disappear after players log out from the game.

The understanding of ‘social’ in this article refers to the interactions and connections we make and how we relate to others. Play in and of itself is inherently social. Through gaming together, players learn about the habits and thought patterns of others. This form of connection cannot be easily understood through words in conversation.

Utility Pattern

The difference can also be seen as we understand how youths use video games and social media differently.

The way youths approach video games and social media is very different. Social media is primarily passive in nature. When using the platform, youths are more likely to consume content rather than participate actively and post often. On the other hand, video games are more interactive in nature. Youths play a more central and proactive role in their experience. For example, they may work together in teams with other players, strategize, and try to complete quests. A paper in 2018 noted that through cooperative video games, students can learn and practice valuable soft skills such as teamwork, problem solving, decision-making and more.

Due to the nature of interactivity in social media and video games, users contribute differently in both settings. In social media, the content is open for any user to contribute, although social media platforms may determine the format (Ex: short videos, still photos, text, livestream). For video games, content like the game world, characters, and movement are centrally designed by developers. These games generally have a coherent story or world. A slight exception is the Sandbox genre, where players can create. Unlike social media, Sandbox’s socialising elements are not primary.

Based on GWI, 30% of Gen Zs use social media for inspiration (GWI, 2023). Some Gen Zs also find Instagram more suitable for posting major life events and use TikTok to watch content rather than post. Nearly half of them turn to TikTok or Instagram for answers rather than Google Maps or Search (Google, 2022). 

Gen Zs are also more accustomed to shorter forms of content like Instagram Reels, TikTok, and YouTube Shorts. TikTok has seen notable, rapid growth as a platform. With its relatable content, the platform showcases real opinions and views that feel authentic. Hence, Gen Z users have grown by 37% since Q4 2020 (GWI, 2023, Pg 40).

Globally, Gen Zs’ main reason for gaming is socialising with friends. Based on observation, males prefer tactile interactions with clear objectives. As gaming fits the bill, it has become a preferred form of social interaction for some. While popular video games in Singapore are mostly multiplayer or co-op games, solo games are also an option that some youths may prefer.  

Based on different surveys conducted in April 2022 targeting Singaporean respondents aged 16 to 24 years old, 80 percent of Singaporean respondents played online games. (Statista: V1). 41 percent played online games daily (Statista: V2) and 38 percent also said they spent one to two hours on one gaming session (Statista: V3). The most popular genre was shooter games (37 percent) (Statista: V4)


Due to the formation of culture in social media and video games, youths may interact differently on both platforms. Culture is made up of unspoken aspects of social behaviour and relations. This includes the general customs and beliefs, attitudes, behaviours, and opinions of particular groups of people (Cambridge Dictionary).

In social media, culture can be relatively diverse. This is due to the algorithm that identifies one’s personal preferences. Slang, cultural references, and trends can differ based on the segments of the population that youths fall into.

For video games, there is a coherent world designed for each game title. As a result, a specific culture may form among players of the same game. They may adopt elements such as specific vocabulary or slang, characters, a way of thinking, and more. As a conference paper from 2007 puts it, “Through the design process, values and beliefs become embedded in games”. 


The difference between social media and video game platforms calls for different management approaches for these platforms. Parents can consider following their children’s social media accounts. Parents can engage children by sharing, discussing, and even watching their favourite social media channels and content types. 

Additionally, accounting for the social aspect of video games may help parents manage it more effectively. Rather than disallowing video games entirely, parents may consider becoming more active in helping their children decide which friends to play with instead, and make use of readily-available game rating systems to help their children choose age-appropriate games to enjoy.

While adopting a ‘monitor-and-manage’ approach for these platforms, parents should take note not to just ‘supervise’ them as it may come across restrictive. Quality time and effort spent understanding the child will also improve parent-child relationships.