Antecedents of Interpersonal Communication Motives on Twitter: Loneliness and Life Satisfaction

By Hwang, Yoosun | International Journal of Cyber Society and Education, June 2014 | Go to article overview

Antecedents of Interpersonal Communication Motives on Twitter: Loneliness and Life Satisfaction


Hwang, Yoosun, International Journal of Cyber Society and Education


INTRODUCTION

The development of information communication technologies (ICT) allows people to more efficiently satisfy their need for communication. As social interaction is the innate desire of individuals (Schutz, 1966), various interpersonal communication media are now widely used to maintain personal relationships across offline and online settings. The prevalence of Internet and digital mobile devices has expanded the area of mediated interpersonal communication. In this environment, people continue to maintain their personal relationships in online settings.

In particular, Twitter, a micro-blog that allows short message "tweets" of fewer than 140 characters, now has a global reach and about fifty million users. Twitter provides diverse types and opportunities of communication. First, one function of Twitter, RT (retweet) enables users to disseminate a tweet to all of their "followers" (their Twitter "friends") at once, which facilitates an efficient flow of information. Second, along with this communication to a group, the exchange of conversations between individuals also takes place on Twitter, making it a channel for both public and private interaction. However, personal relationships formed on Twitter are not always reciprocal. People can form unreciprocated relationships with whomever they want, unless the person's Twitter account is private. Ending a relationship is as simple as starting a personal connection. The size of the interpersonal network, i.e., the number of followers, does not always imply the same amount of intimate personal relationship on Twitter. Personal networks formed on Twitter include both private and official relationships; thus, it is assumed that the users may have diverse interpersonal communication motives.

The current study focuses on how individuals' interpersonal relationships and social psychological status are related to interpersonal communication motives on Twitter. Interactions on Twitter can be regarded as a part of an individual's social life and can be related to their patterns of communication in the offline world. It has been supported that personal exchanges through interpersonal communication media have become more entwined with interpersonal relationships in real-life settings (Barnes, 2003). Previously, studies have explored relationships between people's offline and online communication (e.g., Kraut et al., 2002; Mesch, 2001). It has been also verified that individuals' personal traits were associated with the use of interpersonal media (Correa, Hinsley, & de Zuniga, 2010; Rau, Gao, & Ding, 2008) and the pattern of interpersonal communication (Prinstein, Boergers, & Vernberg, 2001). Thus, it can be inferred that the characteristics of one's interpersonal relationships and social psychological status may be reflected in his/her online communication.

As Twitter includes various types of personal relationships and interactions, understanding who uses Twitter and for what purpose can provide an insight into the consequences recent interpersonal media have on communication. This functional approach helps to account for the reason and the mechanism behind the process of interpersonal communication (Step & Finucane, 2002). By doing so, especially in the current study, the kind of interpersonal needs that the interpersonal media can gratify during social interactions is estimated. Also, the direction of the development of interpersonal media can be considered.

LITERATURE REVIEW

Interpersonal Communication Motives

Interpersonal communication motives (ICMs) originate from the perspective that people have a basic need for social interaction and they desire to form proper relationships (Schutz, 1966). Based on Schutz's FIRO-B (Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation-Behavior) scale and the uses and gratifications approach (Katz, Blumler, & Gurevich, 1974), Rubin, Perse, and Barbato (1988) identify six interpersonal communication motives: (1) pleasure, the need to have fun; (2) affection, or the need to exchange care and concern; (3) inclusion, the need to be part of a group or to include others in a group; (4) escape, the need to take one's mind off of certain tasks; (5) relaxation, the need to relieve stress; and (6) control, the desire to dominate others. …

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