In today's world, social media is a huge element of society and culture. Everyone is constantly on their phones scrolling through their timelines and updating their own. We rarely stop to think about how many times we actually check our phones everyday. According to Time Magazine, Americans aged 18-24 check their phone 74 times each day. Why is this? Why are we so obsessed with social media and what are our reasons for using social media so frequently? This is the question that is posed in the article “Why People Use Social Media: A Uses and Gratifications Approach” by Anita Whitling and David Williams. This article was published in the Qualitative Market Research Journal. In this article, the authors conducted a study of 25 individuals who use social media. The authors then gathered ten common uses and gratifications the individuals noted for using social media. These uses and gratifications were: social interaction, information seeking, pass time, entertainment, relaxation, communicatory utility, convenience utility, expression of opinion, information sharing, and surveillance/knowledge about others.
Because this article was published in a marketing journal, the goals of the authors of this article are to demonstrate the importance of uses and gratifications theory to social media, to apply uses and gratifications theory to social media, and to identify the uses and gratifications that consumers receive from using social media. They state in the article that the basic premise of uses and gratifications theory is that individuals will seek out media among competitors that fulfills their needs and leads to ultimate gratifications. The researchers want to understand why consumers use social media and how marketers can reach a greater audience using social media.
The researchers identified seven motivations for using media stated in the theory and applied them to social media. The seven motivations they applied were passing time, social interaction, entertainment, relaxation, information, communicatory utility, and convenience utility. They claim that each of these has a different meaning for social media. They essentially took previously studied constructs and instead of applying them to media as a whole, applied them to social media.
They chose to explore these elements of the theory to see if we use social media the same way we use other types of media. Another reason they chose to explore these elements was to see how our uses and gratifications of media have changed over time. The theory they are pulling these motivations from are all quite dated and this article will help to update them to today's society. It is very important to update our research as time goes on. Media today is completely different than what it was even ten years ago. Ten years ago, social media was not even existent and television was the biggest source of media for almost everyone in America. Today, social media is easily the biggest source of media while television is becoming less relevant by the day. This is why articles like this are important and need to be written.
The authors of the article conducted in depth interviews using 25 people aged 18-56 years old. They were asked various questions about social media and what their reasons are for using social media. The authors concluded on ten common uses and gratifications and detailed what each of them entail.
The first one is social interaction. They reported that 88% of the respondents said that they use social media for social interaction. The respondents cited that Facebook helps them connect with old friends that they never would have without social media. Another interesting thing that was included in the study was that the respondents stated that they “have more contact with people via social media than face to face”. This shows a huge shift in our culture. Years ago, there was no other way to speak to someone than face to face, nowadays people are communicating more over social media than in person.
The second theme was information seeking. The respondents said that they use social media to look for sales on products or to find out information about social gatherings. They also said that they use social media for self-education. This is definitely an advantage of social media. Today we have more access to information than ever before. The third theme was passing time. The respondents stated that they use social media when they are bored at school or work. This theme is slightly troubling as these are places where we should be doing productive things, but it is clear that social media serves as a distraction to many. The fourth theme was entertainment. The respondents cited examples such as playing games, listening to music, and watching videos. The fifth theme was relaxation. They stated that using social media does not require any thought and that it is an escape from reality. This is something we all want at times and that can be fulfilled by social media. The sixth theme was expression of opinions. People said this because social media gives them a chance to vent, voice their opinions anonymously, or criticize others. Social media gives everyone a voice, which is a double edged sword. Some use their voice in a negative and hateful way while some use their voice to promote good causes. The seventh theme was communicatory utility. 56% of respondents said that they use social media to give them something to talk about with their friends. They cited that “Facebook gives them things to gossip about”. The eighth theme was convenience utility. The respondent said that one of the main reasons they use social media is because it so easily accessible and has no time requirements or constraints. It is in everyone's pocket at all times, which is one of the things that makes it so popular. The ninth theme was information sharing. There are thousands of ways to share information on social media. The respondents said they post updates and share pictures while others said that they market themselves using social media. The final theme was surveillance/knowledge about others. Some of the respondents said that they are “nosey” and that they “creep on people” using social media. This is something that would have never been possible using older types of media.
In conclusion, there are many reasons why people use social media and these are just a few. What these reasons show us is how media has changed and how it has stayed the same. We still look many of the same things that we did with older types of media. These things such as relaxation, entertainment, and communicatory utility have been reasons why we use media for years. Nowadays, it is much easier to get the same gratifications using social media. All you need today to get these gratifications is a phone and five minutes. At the same time, there are things in this article that show how much media has changed. Themes like information sharing and surveillance/knowledge about others were not existent ten years ago. It will be interesting to see what new themes will come about in the next ten years. Media is constantly changing and social media is a perfect example of that. The way we use media has changed drastically in such a short period of time. Who knows how different the world of media will be in ten more years?
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