LASICS .::. Open Conference Systems, IAMCR 2010: Communication and Citizenship

Font Size:  Small  Medium  Large

Are the Youth of Today Ever Becoming More "Social"?: Exploring the Relationship between Social Media Use and Prosocial Effect

Yoonwhan "Miles" Cho

Last modified: 2010-07-17


New media technologies are becoming embedded into the life of the younger generation. As numerous research have found, the use of social media has already dominated the daily routine and communication of the youth in Korea. Whether they realize it or not, at least on the surface level, the youth of today are given a variety of ways to communicate more than any generation before and have a potential to become ever more "social," as getting ever easier and closer to playing "good" citizen's role at just a click of button.

Unlike the passivity of mass media and its negative or "antisocial" effects (e.g., sex and violence), which has been dominantly researched since the 1960s, the proactive nature of social media has a definite adventage in promoting prosocial effects of media over any other media before. The exponential growth of young people using social media over past few years invited an utopian viewpoint that the youth are becoming more social with the advent of Web 2.0, and there has been even a hype about participatory citizenship of the future generation.

Meanwhile, emulating the "tone" of traditional media effects research, some scholars took a dystopian viewpoint. They linked new media use to other social problems (e.g., online addiction, social isolation like cocooning and non-participation), and subsequent social inactivities that renounce good citizenship. Having considered the viewpoints, this study explores the relationship between various aspects of social media use, especially that of social media or Web 2.0, and its possible association with prosocial behavioral intention (PBI), which have been considered important "measure" of good citizenship in previous research.

In focus group interviews and a series of extensive surveys of the youth from Korea, it is found that social media use, especially in terms of different behavioral patterns, predicts the effect outcome. To confirm a validity of the suggested social media uses and effect model, a comparable effect (as dependent variable), online consumer behavioral intention (CBI) is tested along with PBI. The survey data are then used to build a series of regression models. In the proposed models, the analyses indicate that social media use and behavioral patterns predict outcomes.

CBI is found to be deeply related to two of the social media use patterns, ritualistic use (RU) and instrumental use (IU), explaining 25% of the variability in CBI. Previous research found RU is associated with “less active” involvement. However, those who show a heavy RU pattern also show a higher CBI. RU explains about four times the variance in CBI models when compared to IU. Actually, IU was hypothesized to relate to more “active” rather than “passive” involvement, therefore, being less vulnerable to the effects of media.

Meanwhile, PBI is best explained by participatory use (PU) and IU, which explains the variability of PBI by 15% and 6% respectively. However, various temporal aspects of social media use is found insignificant predictor of PBI. However, PU actually increases and predicts people’s intention to engage in prosocial behavior, and this tentative finding provides a new perspective to understand media use habit and the prosocial outcome. PU, as a unique dimension of social media, has included the practice of creation, dissemination, providing feedback, and linking of information as a distinctive behavioral pattern. More involvement—participatory activity or “social” practice, as a major use pattern of ever-popular social media sites—needs more attention in future research.

In conclusion, it is found that the suggested social media uses model raises the predictive power higher for the dependent variables (i.e., PBI and CBI), compared to previous models that were suggested in the mainstream media effects research. Also, the findings suggested the importance of categorizing the influence of the social media uses into the suggested behavioral patterns of use, rather than the current effort of measuring the temporal uses, which often "framed" the uses like a substance, and even has been “blamed” to reduce prosocial behavior throughout the society. The study provides conceptual and methodological alternative for social media research in light of prosocial effect and its relevance to the notion of citizenship.

An account with this site is required in order to view papers. Click here to create an account.