Studies have produced vastly disparate findings when exploring relationships between social networking site (SNS) usage and psychosocial well-being. These inconsistencies might reflect a lack of consideration for how people use SNS; specifically, while meaningful interactions are suggested to foster positive feelings, the passive consumption of others’ feeds is proposed to have negative effects on users’ well-being. To facilitate the empirical evaluation of these claims, the present study developed a computerised task to measure styles of usage on a mock SNS platform. Administering this Social Network Site Behaviour Task (SNSBT) online to 526 individuals, we identified three dissociable usage styles that extend the active-passive dichotomy employed frequently in the literature: passive use (consuming content posted by others), reactive use (reacting to others’ content), and interactive use (interacting with others through content sharing). Furthermore, our data reveal that these usage styles differ on several measures of psychosocial variables employed frequently in the disparate literature: more interactive users reported greater feelings of social connectedness and social capital than passive or reactive users. Importantly, however, our results also reveal the multi-dimensional nature of usage styles, with online network size and time spent on SNS platforms serving as potentially confounding influences on some psychosocial measures. These findings not only advance our understanding of SNS behaviour by providing empirical support for theoretic propositions, but also demonstrate the utility of the SNSBT for experimental investigations into the psychosocial outcomes of different SNS usage styles.
- Research Article
- Biology and life sciences
- Social sciences
- Computer and information sciences
- Medicine and health sciences