This research will test a conceptual model of the relationship between social media goal pursuit and well-being that is grounded in motivational theory and results from two pilot studies. In the theoretical framework, the broad range of goals people have for using social media is uniquely determined by two broad dimensions that specify the primary focus of the 1) content interaction and the 2) person interaction. The social media goals corresponding to these dimensions are hypothesized to be pursued according to the basic needs that social media satisfy for its users and the motivational orientations supported by those needs. The model states how goals lead to different well-being outcomes with the relationship between social media goal pursuit and well-being moderated by perceptions of overall well-being in specific life domains, along with constructs related to social identity. Three studies will test and validate the conceptual model: validation of the dimensions underlying social media goal pursuit (Study 1), development of new scales to measure the social media goals (Study 2), and testing and refinement of the model in a structural equation modeling framework (Study 3). The model will permit examination of a host of research questions including whether certain social media goals render individuals more vulnerable to negative well-being outcomes. For example, do individuals low in well-being pursue particular social media goals in the hope of improving their lives? Are these goals different from those that individuals more satisfied with their lives pursue? The model will allow researchers to build upon a common set of constructs and can increase understanding of why people use social media, along with its benefits and consequences.

A validated theoretical framework relating higher-order social media goals to subjective well-being in the context of basic needs and motivations has the potential to advance foundational research in multiple domains of inquiry. Consumer psychologists and marketing academics can use the framework to examine the relationship between social media goals and consumer response to marketing efforts in interactive media environments. Social psychologists and personality researchers can further refine and extend the framework to include other important constructs likely to impact social media goal pursuit and well-being. Computer information systems researchers can use the model to further understand how social media systems are impacted by individual differences. Although there has been a great deal of descriptive research examining the different usage behaviors people engage in when they use social media, most studies tend to focus narrowly on reasons or motivations for using a particular type of social media, rather than on organizing the results in the context of a broader conceptual framework that can explain what drives use and how usage goals are related to key well-being outcomes. Understanding the drivers of social media use and its consequences for well-being will have important national policy and consumer welfare implications.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Information and Intelligent Systems (IIS)
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William Bainbridge
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University of California Riverside
United States
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