Media Effects Research Lab - Research Archive

To Face or Not to Face? Response Strategies to Cope with Face Threat on Instagram

Student Researcher(s)

Bingbing Zhang (Ph.D Candidate); Rachel Peng (Ph.D Candidate)

Faculty Supervisor

Dr. S. Shyam Sundar

This paper was based on a project as part of the Comm 506 course.

INTRODUCTION

The scalability of social network sites increased the chances of individuals to encounter face threats (other provided negative information). Existing research on face threat coping strategies on social media has mixed results. This study focuses on identifying different types of response strategies individuals will adopt when they encounter different kinds of face threat on Instagram. This study test (1) the relationship between different face threatening content on Instagram and response strategies and (2) the mediating role of negative emotional reaction and perceived offenders’ intention in the above process.

RESEARCH QUESTION / HYPOTHESES

H1: Individuals exposed to lower face threat context will be more likely to adopt ignoring strategies than those who exposed to higher face threat context.

H2: Individuals exposed to lower face threat context will be more likely to adopt justification strategies than those who exposed to higher face threat context.

H3: Individuals exposed to higher face threat context will be more likely to adopt withdraw strategies than those who exposed to lower face threat context.

H4: Individuals exposed to higher face threat context will be more likely to adopt confronting strategies than those who exposed to lower face threat context.

RQ1: Will the effects of degree of face threat on response strategies be mediated by negative emotional valence?

RQ2: Will the effects of degree of face threat on response strategies be mediated by perceived intention of others on Instagram?



METHOD

After receiving the IRB review approval, from November 13th to November 27th in 2019 an online survey was distributed via Qualtrics. Participants were recruited from undergraduate students from the College of Communications at Penn State. Each participant was rewarded extra credit for completing the 10-minute survey. The survey designed three hypothetical face threat situations (being tagged by undesired post, violating norms post, revenge post) on Instagram in order to explore what strategies individuals would adopt to respond to different face threats on Instagram. Participants reported their emotional reaction and perceived intention of offender after exposure to each hypothetical face threat condition. Each participant was exposed to all three face threat conditions. Eventually, a total of 314 valid questionnaires were collected.

 

RESULTS

A univariate split-plot approach in JMP was used to analyze the differences in major variables between three conditions. ANOVA results showed that there were significant differences in response strategies when individuals facing lower face threat and higher face threat. In both exposure to undesired post and exposure to social norms violation post face threat situation, individuals adopt similar strategies such as disengagement or justification. In the exposure to revenge porn situation, individuals tend to use withdrawal strategies or confront offender. Testing by Hayes’s (2017) “PROCESS” macro (model 6), the results showed that both perceived intentions of others and emotional reaction served as mediators between type of face threat (dummy coded 0 = low face threat; 1 = high face threat) and withdrawal strategies or confronting strategies. Consistently, the mediation effect of emotional reaction must go through perceived intention. Higher face threat was associated with higher level of perceived intention which led to more negative emotional reaction, and then led to behaviors of withdrawal strategies and confront strategies.

 

CONCLUSIONS/DISCUSSION

This study found that individuals exposed to lower face threat intend to disengage or justify the situation because individuals might perceive this action unintentional and inoffensive. However, individuals exposed to higher level of face threat such as revenge sex pictures or videos from ex-partners intend to withdrawal the post or confront the offender. In order to regain a sense of control, individuals try to untag themselves from the post or report the post to Instagram. Although Instagram does not have the feature of untagging, individuals expressed their intent to do that.  Most importantly, this study found that perceived intention and emotional reactions were two important mediators to explain the mechanism of choosing strategies to cope with different degree of face threat. Individuals perceived others’ intention first before they had emotional reactions after exposure to face threat. Perceived intention was positively related to emotional reaction. Emotional reactions cannot explain the whole path between degree of face threat and withdrawal strategies which can be explained through appraisal theory of emotions that individuals would appraisal the event first before they adopt coping strategies situation. The findings have theoretical implication for face threat scholarship and practical implication for Instagram design.

For more details regarding the study contact

Dr. S. Shyam Sundar by e-mail at sss12@psu.edu or by telephone at (814) 865-2173

More Articles From: