How Do Social Media Impact Interpersonal Communication Competence?: A Uses and Gratifications Approach

How Do Social Media Impact Interpersonal Communication Competence?: A Uses and Gratifications Approach

Erin E. Hollenbaugh (Kent State University at Stark, USA), Amber L. Ferris (The University of Akron, USA) and Daniel J. Casey (University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point, USA)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 27
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9412-3.ch006
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The current study examines the role of psycho-social individual characteristics, social media motives, and social media use as predictors of interpersonal communication competence (ICC). Applying the uses and gratifications theoretical framework, this research seeks to explore the potential effects of social media use related to the second digital generation (2DG), or those born after 1990. A cross-sectional study design, surveying 373 college students ages 18-24 years, found that offline social capital, interpersonal interaction, and social activity were direct, positive predictors of ICC. Social media motives and use contributed a small but significant portion of explained variance in the model, above and beyond effects of psycho-social characteristics. Specifically, members of the 2DG who use social media to compensate for offline loneliness, as well as those who were more dependent on social media to fulfill a variety of needs reported lower ICC. Limitations and directions for future research are also offered.
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Uses And Gratifications Theory

Emerging from a collection of media studies in the mid-twentieth century, U&G is a functional perspective of media use that centers on the individual. Originally proposed by Katz, Blumler, and Gurevitch (1973), the U&G process examines the relationship between the individual and media effects, whereby:

(1) the social and psychological origins of (2) needs, which generate (3) expectations of (4) the mass media or other sources, which lead to (5) differential patterns of media exposure (or engagement in other activities), resulting in (6) need gratifications and (7) other consequences, perhaps mostly unintended ones. (p. 20)

In sum, the theory proposes that individuals are actively motivated to seek out media that best fulfills their needs based on who they are (i.e., demographics, personality traits, and social circumstances). The effects of media use are then dependent on these individual factors as well as motives for use (see Figure 1). According to Ruggiero (2000), U&G is very useful in explaining how and why people use new technologies. By discovering the individual factors that lead to various motive structures, the theory can build a foundation from which media effects can be explored.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Second Digital Generation (2DG): People born in the 1990s and more recent who are natives to social media.

Interpersonal Communication Competence (ICC): How effectively individuals can navigate communicative interactions to achieve specific goals through the use of interpersonal communication. Someone with a high degree of ICC will be more likely to achieve communicative goals than someone with a low level of ICC.

Contextual Age: Individuals’ position in life relative to their life satisfaction, interpersonal interactions, and level of social activity.

Social Capital: Access to and utilization of social networks for beneficial outcomes.

Motives: What drives social media users to engage with a specific medium. Common motives for using social media include: communicating with friends, to alleviate boredom, for entertainment, to meet new people, and to relieve loneliness.

Path Analysis: A robust statistical test utilizing a series of linear and hierarchical regressions that reveals the collective variance explained in the outcome variable by a set of predictor variables, as well as direct predictors and indirect predictors, mediated by other predictor variables.

Uses and Gratification Theory (U&G): A theoretical perspective that examines why and how users engage with media to fulfill specific needs or achieve specific goals, based upon their psychological characteristics, social factors, and motives.

Social Media Dependency: How reliant users are on social media to fulfill specific needs.

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