Social Networking Services (SNS): Effects of Information Accessibility and Role Stress on Self-disclosure


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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Award date14 Jun 2017


There is a growing body of research about the impact of users’ perceived stress on their Social Networking Services (SNS) usage. Stress commonly negatively leads to a reduction in SNS usage (e.g., discontinuous use and self-disclosure). However, very little research examines how SNS users strive to resolve stress problems from the positive perspective. To fill this gap, we conducted a research study among users of a large SNS in China, named Moments. We hypothesized that communion striving motivation (i.e., self-presentation, motivation for relationship initiation and motivation for relationship maintenance) would mediate the relationship between users’ perceived role stress (i.e., role overload and role conflict) and SNS usage (i.e., self-disclosure) based on the Conservation of Resources and Preventive Stress Management models. We hypothesized that the SNS users’ response to role stress could be positive, leading to eustress (increase in motivation for relationship maintenance and self-presentation), in addition to the negative response resulting in distress (decrease in motivation for relationship initiation). The survey results revealed the mediating effect of communion striving motivation on the SNS stress-usage relationship. We also found that SNS users conserve their resources to maintain relationships and present themselves positively in response to role stress, as predicted. An unexpected finding was that SNS users strive to build relationships with new friends in response to role stress. Theoretical contributions and practical implications of the study are discussed, as well as limitations and directions for future research. Accordingly, this is the first focus of this thesis.

Despite the importance of medium features of SNS on users’ usage and engagement, few studies focus on how different types of SNS with various medium features affect individuals’ psychological cognitions, particularly the differential impacts of high-level versus low-level information accessibility on user beliefs, and how these psychological beliefs translate into SNS usage (e.g., self-disclosure). There exist mixed findings of the prior research when exploring the information accessibility – SNS usage relationships. Drawing on social exchange theory (SET), we propose that social exchange beliefs will play a mediating role in the relationship between information accessibility and self-disclosure. By examining how different levels of information accessibility (high versus. low), a design feature of SNS, affect social exchange beliefs (i.e., perceived social capital bridging, perceived social capital bonding and perceived privacy risks) of SNS user, and examining SNS usage (e.g., selfdisclosure) using a factorial design approach in an experiment setting, we reveal that significant relationships exist between information accessibility and social exchange beliefs, and social capital bridging and social capital bonding perceptions are two indicators that predict self-disclosure. The two forms of social exchange beliefs mediate the relationship between information accessibility and self-disclosure as hypothesized. Privacy risk has no mediation effect on the relationship between information accessibility and self-disclosure. In summary, the second focus of this thesis will help to unveil the complex relationships between SNS design features (e.g., information accessibility), psychological cognition (e.g., social capital bridging, social capital bonding, privacy risks) and SNS usage (e.g., self-disclosure), and accordingly uncover the compelling problems in social exchange processes in SNS.

    Research areas

  • Social networking services (SNS), role stress, preventive stress management, conservation of resources, communion striving motivation, self-disclosure, information accessibility, social exchange beliefs, social exchange theory