CEC Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

2015

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Information Systems (DISS)

Department

Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences

Advisor

Laurie Dringus

Committee Member

Ling Wang

Committee Member

James Parrish

Abstract

This qualitative study provided insight into the phenomenon of newcomers in social networking, in particular, to understand what role specific Facebook features play in motivating content sharing and contribution among newcomers. Research indicated that the first several months or years of social networking site (SNS) membership are the most crucial in terms of indicating long-term participation and commitment to the SNS. Long-term participation is specifically manifested through interactions with peers who are members of the same website and through interactivity such as content sharing and contribution. A number of quantitative studies have focused on motivations for user contribution in social networking sites, but inconsistent findings demonstrated the need for a qualitative approach to understand the user experience more clearly.

The purpose of the study was to understand how users are motivated to engage in Facebook from their perspective as newcomers and to distill the significance of social media interface features as an enabler of community sharing. Insight into this phenomenon further demonstrates how specific actions on Facebook such as tagging, posting on profiles, and chatting help foster a sense of belonging and socialization among the sample group.

The phenomenon is studied through interviews with a distinct group of Facebook members - women who are aged 40 and older in the Science, Engineering, and Technology (SET) industry who are also newcomers to Facebook. The lived experiences of these respondents were explored through open-ended questions, related to their own use of the said social networking site. Semi-structured interviews allowed respondents to be candid and comprehensive in their answers.

Five themes developed related to the motivations for Facebook use from the lived experiences of the women interviewed. The themes were (a) social connection, (b) visual artifact sharing, (c) shared identity, (d) social investigation and (e) education. These themes were consistent with findings of other studies, but the personal accounts of these women revealed how they perceived use of various Facebook features improved the quality and depth of their interpersonal relationships.

The findings of this study have implications for designers, developers, and users of computer-mediated communications and technologies. By understanding the value of various features to users of all ages, communications inhibitors such as distance and culture can be overcome with effective design and innovation.

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