Media Effects Research Lab - Research Archive

You Affect Twitter, but How Does Twitter Affect You?

Student Researcher(s)

Nathaniel Barlock (B.A. Candidate); Olivia Rodimer (B.A. Candidate); Julia Casey (B.A. Candidate)

Faculty Supervisor

Dr. S. Shyam Sundar

This paper was based on a project as part of the "COMM 418: Media Effects: Theory and Research" course.


Social media's rise in prevalence as a social medium has been drastic and fast paced. Within the span of only eight years, from 2006 to 2014, usage amongst US adults climbed from an approximate twenty percent to an approximate seventy five percent. With over three out of every four adults utilizing social media sites in their daily life by 2014 alone this rapid onset of use alongside the growth of scope of such mediums has resulted in numerous questions pertaining to their deployment and engagement. Premising our research question; while we use social media how does it use and affect us? A question we look to address through the examination of Twitter use in relation to individuals reported levels of self agency.


Research Question: For social media users, controlling for the medium, what is the relationship between self-agency and frequency of Twitter use?
Hypotheses 1: There will be a negative association between passive Twitter use and an individual’s perception of self-agency.
Hypotheses 2: Frequency of tweeting or engaging with others will predict a higher degree of self-agency.
Hypotheses 3: Degree of engagement with other Twitter users’ tweets will be negatively associated with an individual’s perception of self-agency.


The participants for this study were recruited in two different ways. The first form of recruitment was premised by convenience sampling through the social networks of the researchers. The research team reached out to acquaintances through various social mediums such as GroupMe, Facebook and Twitter and invited these individuals to participate within the study. The second form of recruitment pertains to the Amazon Mechanical Turk system. The qualtrics study was formatted and posted on the MTurk system on two separate occasions in order to gather additional data points and participants.  Each of these participation points were premised with an informed consent forum as well as disclaimers pertaining to maintaining participant privacy as well as the minimization of participant risk which we evaluated as being non-existent. Initial respondents after the closing of the data collection phase was N=171, after the data cleaning process and the removal of incomplete surveys our resulting value was N=166. The demographics of these 166 participants were as follows; 48 Female, 117 Male, 1 Non-Binary with a mean age of 31.5 and a range of 49 years. 51% of the participant base reported being White, 24.38% reported being Asian, 17.5% reported being Hispanic or Latino, 2.5% reported being Black of African American and less than 1% reported being American Indian/Alaskan Native or Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander.


These results indicate that there is a substantial correlation between active and passive Twitter use and users experienced levels of agency, supporting both H1 and H3 while also premising the concept that H2 or frequency of engagement does not play a mediating role in agency levels. As such it can be stated that the nature in which you use Twitter has a significant impact on agency levels whereas controlling for frequency of use, no matter the type of engagement, does not have a significant effect. Active users demontrait holding  higher levels of agency over passive users, regardless of frequency of use. These findings can be summarized by stating that younger, less educated and passive Twitter users are more likely to experience the lowest levels of agency whereas older, highly educated and active users are more likely to experience the highest levels of reported agency.


Based on our findings, one can imply that those who spend their time engaging in and creating content on social media, specifically Twitter, the more likely they are to feel a greater sense of agency. On the contrary, we can imply that those who spend their time passively using Twitter are more likely to feel a lesser sense of agency. If an individual wanted to feel more agentic, they should consider contributing content to social media rather than simply browsing through it.

For more details regarding the study contact

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

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