Giving too much social support: social overload on social networking sites
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- Maier, C., Laumer, S., Eckhardt, A. et al. Eur J Inf Syst (2015) 24: 447. doi:10.1057/ejis.2014.3
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As the number of messages and social relationships embedded in social networking sites (SNS) increases, the amount of social information demanding a reaction from individuals increases as well. We observe that, as a consequence, SNS users feel they are giving too much social support to other SNS users. Drawing on social support theory (SST), we call this negative association with SNS usage ‘social overload’ and develop a latent variable to measure it. We then identify the theoretical antecedents and consequences of social overload and evaluate the social overload model empirically using interviews with 12 and a survey of 571 Facebook users. The results show that extent of usage, number of friends, subjective social support norms, and type of relationship (online-only vs offline friends) are factors that directly contribute to social overload while age has only an indirect effect. The psychological and behavioral consequences of social overload include feelings of SNS exhaustion by users, low levels of user satisfaction, and a high intention to reduce or even stop using SNS. The resulting theoretical implications for SST and SNS acceptance research are discussed and practical implications for organizations, SNS providers, and SNS users are drawn.