Social Networking and Communication Research

Social Networking and Communication Research

Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 27
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1897-6.ch003
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This chapter examines a range of communication theories that are relevant to our discussion. We will begin with research relevant to social networking, and then focus on communication knowledge and discovery. The relevant research on social networking is aimed at enhancing participation, which means addressing the improvements that are necessary to identify determinants and opportunities that affect levels of acceptance and participation. Participation and understanding go hand in hand, and the current literature review begins with innovation adoption (Hatala & Fleming, 2007) and the diffusion of innovations theory. We then focus on the governing by network methodology (Goldsmith & Eggers, 2004) which focuses on linking social networking challenges to constructs intended to foster behavioral changes or adjustments that improve or enhance the networking experience. The research included also demonstrates that people should be presented with value propositions that either convince them to participate at higher levels than they presently do or that break down their rejection barriers to the activity.

In terms of communication, the 1940s featured the two-step flow process, with Paul Lazarsfeld discussing that interpersonal communication with opinion leaders mediates how mass communication activities. Leon Festinger’s findings that humans are sensitive to inconsistencies in actions and beliefs led to the cognitive dissonance theory, which says that recognizing such inconsistencies causes dissonance and motivates individuals to resolve it. The greater the dissonance, the more motivated people tend to be to resolve it. Knowledge gap theory states that those who have greater access to the media or information acquire information faster than those whose status is lower, and that the gap tends to increase between these segments. Social presence theory, discussed by Charlotte Gunawardena, demonstrates the degree to which a person is perceived to be real in mediated communications. This theory was originally explained as the degree of salience that one person has versus the consequent salience of the interpersonal relationships.

As we examine the theories mentioned to this point, and the ones that follow, we must keep in mind that trust is an important consideration. Trusting relationships in online communications involve an ongoing decision to give most people the benefit of the doubt, and that trust is often extended to people one does not know from direct experience. This examination of trust in the communication context requires focusing on two central issues:

  • 1.

    Using trust to deal with uncertainty and

  • 2.

    Acceptance of vulnerability.

Trust is important because it helps us with the next theory, social context cues. We search the person’s “soul” for the wealth of FTF communication that occurs without words, instead coming from tone of voice, dress, use of space, and body language. This examination also focuses on a major perspective in sociology called interactionist theory. Interactionist theory is focused on the concrete details about what happens among people in everyday life. Interactionists study how people use and interpret symbols to enhance and improve communication, and then use this information to create a sense of self and to add realism to the social situations they experience, working to create and sustain those activities. The chapter concludes with an in-depth look at the three theories that are fundamental to this examination of the communication gap between FTF and online interactions: Emotional intelligence, sensemaking, and communication accommodation theories (CAT). EI is the ability to recognize the emotions in yourself and others and to use this information to make improvements in self-management and relationships with others. Fundamentally, EI is a process of gaining awareness by recognizing personal emotions and those of others. Sensemaking theory is about social activities that require decoding messages for ourselves, drawing upon a common language we use and on the actions we engage in, and understanding the importance of sharing ideas and influencing how others make sense of events. CAT states that people adjust their speech, vocal patterns, and gestures to accommodate others when they communicate, providing a way to examine why people work to emphasize or minimize the differences between themselves and others during non-verbal and verbal communication. The theory also focuses on important interaction considerations like language, context, identity, and intergroup and interpersonal factors.

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