Chapter 6 Notes – Uses and Benefits of Social Media (Humphreys)

Discusses self-presentation and relationship formation online and also use these concepts to understand social interaction and privacy in social media.

Uses and Gratification Theory

  • This theory argues that people consume media for some purpose and to receive some reward, or gratification. Can have meaning in the social context of many different platforms and practices.
  • 96% of people use social networking sites to keep in touch with old friends, and 91% of people use it to keep in touch with current friends
  • Underlying most uses and gratifications is the idea of a goal, a desired end state, something people want to accomplish or something they want to avoid.
    • They can be conscious, signing in to post pictures
    • They can be unconscious, checking to see who has commented positive or negative feedback.


  • The goals we pursue online reflect our desire to build, maintain, improve, or perform a sense of self.
  • Self: a collection of stable attributes and feelings towards those attributes
  • Looking glass self: interaction and feedback from the social and physical world
    • For example, positive comments reinforce the behaviour depicted, whereas negative

comments such as trolling, makes you question yourself.

  • The way we see ourselves is connected with how others see us
  • Self- presentation theory argues that we are always presenting ourselves for a perceived audience
  • Ideal self: emphasizing some aspects of the self and deemphasizing less desirable attributes
  • Front stage: where our formal impression happens
  • Back stage: where we are les self-conscious and disclose our real selves
  • Social comparison theory: we form evaluations of ourselves through comparison with others
    • Looking at a picture on Facebook prompts social comparison, which leads to a reduced self-esteem
  • Performance online: people perform different roles depending on context
  • Dramaturgical theory of self: we are putting on a mask, performing different roles or selves for an intended audience.
  • People not only present idealized self-representations online, but also may perform vulnerabilities that they do not express to others in the offline world.
  • The therapeutic self is not idealized; rather, its flaws are displayed and emphasized for an audience of sympathetic others.
    • Both ideal and therapeutic selves represent a virtual self, the self that is presented in representations online.
  • Digital selves represent the totality of self-representation online and can persist even after death
    • Facebook has procedures for shifting profiles to memorialize users after the termination of physical life
  • Selfie: ane xample of the performace of self, a shot one takes of one-self facing the camera
  • Context Collapse: situations in which two or more social worlds collide
  • Extended self, social media expands the self beyond physical and temporal limitations
    • The phone extends our ability to see traffic ahead, know the weather, find the best restaurant, store contact information, store photos and videos…etc.
  • Cyborg or post human theories see technology and human bodies as increasingly intertwined.

Interpersonal Relationships

  • Interpersonal interactions, how we both give and receive impressions in computer mediated contexts and form relationships in these mediated contexts
  • Self-disclosure: the norm that one is expected to, at least gradually, disclose information about oneself to others
  • Anonymity: someone’s speech, writing, or actions do not contain personally identifiable information and thus cannot be linked to personal identity.
    • Can lead to antisocial behaviour
  • Pseudonymity: a person’s actions may be linked to a particular name, but not traces to an offline person
  • Self-disclosure is distinct from anonymity
    • Can write blogs detailing your dating life, but remain anonymous
  • Flaming: the use of hostile language online, including swearing, insults, offensive language
    • More common in text-based versus visual communication, face-to-face communication
  • Disinhibition: unrestrained or impulsive behaviour without regard to social norms or consequences
  • Online-disinhibition effect: the tendency to experience disinhibition because of the effects of computer-mediated communication.
    • Anonymity online is not always a bad thing, the lack of personally identifying information can enhance self-disclosure and can thus allow people to talk about stigmatizing issues, to feel less marginal and receive emotional, and to receive therapeutic support.
      • It allows whistleblowers to reveal important information without the fear of reprisals
    • Signaling theory: argues that we are always “giving” and “giving off” social signals
    • Social information processing (SIP) model: we find a way to translate socially meaningful information into text-based formats. This model predicts that we still go through the same disclosure processes online, by interpreting cues from others and trying to reduce uncertainty about exactly who the person is and what they want.
      • Studies have found that people disclose more personal information more quickly online and suggest that this is to compensate for the lack of richness.
        • Relieved of some of the demands of the self-presentation like facial expression and eye contact
      • Social identity deindividuation (SIDE) model: we use social categories rather than interpersonal cues when we communicate online.
        • Archetypes: common categories of people formed y past experience, to extrapolate from limited information.
      • Privacy: an interpersonal boundary process by which a person or group regulates interaction with others.
      • Contextual integrity: acknowledging and ensuring adequate protection for privacy to norms of specific contexts, demanding that information gathering and dissemination be appropriate to that context and obey the governing norm of distribution within it”
      • Goals people seek on and through social media: self performance, comparison, and transformation
      • Communitas: the feeling of being in a social group, part of a collective of like-minded individuals.
      • Cognitive dissonance theory: people experience a sense of psychological discomfort when they encounter disconfirming information to their own beliefs or are blocked from pursuing a goal.

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