Understanding Users' (Dis-) Continuance Intention on Social Network Sites: An Empirical Assessment in Facebook

理解社會網絡網站用戶的「不」持續參與: 在臉書中的實證研究

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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Award date7 Mar 2017

Abstract

The tremendous popularity of Social Networking Sites (SNS) makes both practitioners and scholars from a wide variety of disciplines recognize it as a noteworthy topic of study in its own right. Prior SNS researchers have investigated the motivations to use SNSs and shown considerable possible outcomes by using SNSs, such as bonding and bridging social capital and enhancing self-esteem, as well as the dark side of using SNSs, including information overload, social overload, tension across overlapping social groups, addiction, etc.. One important stream of SNS studies focuses on the continuing usage of SNSs. A successful SNS needs a sufficient number of loyal participants who regularly use and steadily contribute content to it. Through a literature review of SNS continuance studies, we find that most current studies have performed no further than a benefit-cost analysis, usually on the basis of gratification theory. Apart from benefits and threats, there is also a need for further investigations of the specificity of SNS continuance study. Besides, few studies have been conducted to provide a thorough investigation of the antecedents of various SNS outcomes and help us understand the mechanism of co-existence of both the positive and negative sides of SNS usage.

This dissertation aims to provide a new framework by which to understand SNS use, outcomes, and continuance, which is developed from the following perspectives: (1) exploring the factors and mechanisms affecting the continuance and discontinuance intentions of SNS users, and (2) identifying the relationships among the network characteristics of users, the motivational use of SNSs and related outcomes. Two studies are conducted to address the above research objectives. Both studies are based on a SNS context like Facebook (FB), which is one of the most typical and popular SNSs today.

In Study 1, I first identify the outcomes of individuals on developing SNS social capital and categorizes them into two general types, namely, social-related support and knowledge-related information. Study 1 explores two types of stress (overload and conflict) when people seek support and information from SNSs. A two-step appraisal framework is applied as the overarching conceptual framework to understand the process through which approach/avoidance outcomes (support, information; overload, conflict) influence both positive and negative emotions and how emotions work as the important determinants of SNS continuous usage intention and discontinuous usage intention. Following the theory of appraisal, the expected approach/avoidance outcomes can influence emotions. This study also investigates the role of the effective use of a group of SNS (i.e. Facebook) features. The effective use of features can be taken as the cognitive appraisal of controllability, which influences emotions, and it can be also taken as a coping strategy that influences approach/avoidance outcomes directly. As a result, this thesis provides a new possibility of understanding the continuous usage of Facebook-style social network systems by including such factors as emotions and features.

In Study 2, the model of social capital is applied to understand how the structure of the online social networks of individuals (resource accessibility) and the uses of SNSs (resource mobilization) play a role in various outcomes they may obtain on SNSs. Factors like the friend-network measure (size, diversity, and tie strength) and the use of SNSs (use for expression and information) generally have an impact on both perceived support and information benefits on SNSs. The result of this study suggests that high levels of overload and conflict may exist when people maintain certain characteristics of network for benefits on SNSs and use them to seek support and information.

In Studies 1 and 2, structural equation modeling (SEM) analyses with SmartPLS are conducted to evaluate the measurement and structural models. The data used for the empirical assessments for the two studies are collected from 192 Facebook users from a university in Hong Kong.

In Study 1, the results indicate that continuance intention can be predicted by positive emotions, whereas discontinuance intention can be predicted by negative emotions. Approach and avoidance outcomes (except social and information overload) can predict positive and negative emotions separately. The effective use of SNS features (News Feed Logistics, News Feed Filtering, Block, and Audience Selection) can generally help users gain more positive and less negative emotions.

In Study 2, the model of social capital is applied to understand how the structure of the online social networks of individuals (resource accessibility) and the uses of SNSs (resource mobilization) play a role in various outcomes they may obtain on SNSs. Factors like the friend-network measure (size, diversity, and tie strength) and the use of SNSs (use for expression and information) generally have an impact on both perceived support and information benefits on SNSs. The result of this study suggests that high levels of overload and conflict may exist when people maintain certain characteristics of network for benefits on SNSs and use them to seek support and information.

This thesis contributes to the literature on SNS continuance, particularly by providing a comprehensive understanding of continuance and investigating a combination of different aspects of SNSs. The entire research intends to help us gain a better understanding of the SNS phenomenon by integrating the following components: 1) SNS features and affordances, 2) SNS user network characteristics, 3) process dynamics of user activities and outcomes, 4) SNS user emotions, and 5) continuance/discontinuance intention. As a result, this thesis provides a detailed insight into the specific characteristics of SNSs and the interplay and dependencies among different aspects of SNSs. This dissertation also seeks to expand our understanding of the underlying mechanisms of SNS continuance, which complements and improves the research on SNSs. It also helps SNS operators who are interested in maintaining their users to achieve sustainability and success. Based on the discussion of the research findings and limitations, possible directions for future research are then offered.