The Effects of Context Collapse in Social Media on Dyadic Interpersonal Communication Processes


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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Award date31 Aug 2022


Social media technology mixes originally offline heterogeneous audiences into the same context, making it is impossible for people to use traditional ways in offline conversations to manage multiple identities to deal with online interactions. Consequently, it is hard to sustain different social environments due to the absence of spatial, temporal, and social boundaries in social media platforms. Scholars termed "context collapse" concept to describe the phenomenon that involves how people, information, and norms permeate from one context to another in social media. Context collapse could bring about both potentially beneficial as well as problematic consequences.

A growing body of research has focused on the phenomenon of context collapse and behavioral aspects in social media, but only limited studies have systematically explained the impact of context collapse on interpersonal behaviors, involving mechanisms of cognitive processes. Despite more than two decades of research on information management processes by communication scholars, research gaps remain in self-disclosure, response, and privacy controls under the collapsed affordances of social media contexts. This study attempts to
understand the impact of context collapse on interpersonal interaction processes by applying a dyadic perspective from various disciplines.

The relationship between context collapse and interpersonal behaviors (i.e., self-disclosure, response) in social media has become the foci of the social science of human behavior as well as computer system. Scholars also pay increased attention to the role of context collapse in information management process in several domains, including information system, marketing, consumer behavior, linguistics, and communication. I propose a dyadic model of context collapse in social media to integrate and extend previous efforts into the communication discipline. Draw from social cognitive theory and functional model of self-disclosure, I suppose a three-stage process of information management framework in interpersonal interactants, emphasize the role of context collapse, and bring attention to the interactive and dynamic nature of self-disclosure processes in social media. I explicated the framework’s propositional structure and present a theoretical model to capture some overarching principles in detail. By conducting three studies, I first established the three subdimensions of context collapse, including physical boundary, temporal boundary, and social-psychological boundary. I then applied the latent proxy of context collapse scale into self-disclosure as well as response. It also indicated that context collapse could directly and indirectly predict self-disclosure and response. In general, I extended the functional theory of self-disclosure in dyadic approach and in social media platforms. Practical implications for social media developers and related practitioners were also discussed.

    Research areas

  • context collapse, self-disclosure, affordance, social media, information management