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The Inevitable Decline: Explicating the (Non)Sharing Decisions on Facebook

Sat, May 27, 8:00 to 9:15, Hilton San Diego Bayfront, Floor: 2, Indigo 202B

Abstract

Although the number of Facebook users is steadily increasing, there has been a significant decrease in sharing activities. This “increase-decline paradox” reflects a growing pain of many online communities where the once active users would eventually become less involved after a period of time, despite many attempts to promote sharing. To resolve this paradox, we propose a multidimensional theoretical model that tests possible effects of platform features, cognitive factors and social comparison on sharing. Using three 2 x 2 experiments (N = 647), we note while platform features such as content type and privacy settings contribute to explaining (non-)sharing decisions, the decline is somewhat inevitable due to a chain of cognitive reactions. This is because increasing Facebook use possibly cultivates ambient awareness, which may lead to higher level of presumed influence of sharing that would eventually result in self-censorship. Counterintuitively, this suggests that Facebook environment features have contradictory influence on sharing. Our study also finds very strong third-person effects, which alludes to the perceived undesirability of sharing as a behavior as well as the misperceptions toward others’ decision-making, which together discourage sharing.

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