Media and Communication Ph.D. Dissertations


College Students' Positive Strategic SNS Involvement and Stress Coping in the United States and China

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Media and Communication

First Advisor

Louisa Ha (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Gi Woong Yun (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Sung-Yeon Park (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Jeremy Wallach (Other)


As young people are increasingly dependent on Social Networking Site (SNS) to socialize, seek information, and self-broadcast, their SNS involvement was found to be associated with social capital and social support in a positive way, especially among individuals with low social psychological assets. Based on three audience-centered media use theories and review of literature, a positive social media involvement model is proposed to study college students’ Facebook use and how their positive strategic involvement in certain online activities is related to users’ social psychological well-being. More specifically, the goals of the study are threefold: First, to find out whether positive strategic SNS involvement is associated with adaptive coping and adjustment; second, to identify characteristics of SNS users who benefit most from positive strategic SNS involvement; third, to test the mediating roles of social support, social learning, and emotional status on the relationship between positive strategic SNS involvement and adaptive coping. Lastly, this study extends understanding of social media uses and social psychological effects in cross-cultural settings.

This study is based on a self-administered online survey of undergraduate students in a public university in the Midwest of the United States and a public university in Southern China between November 2013 and April 2014. A total of 265 survey responses were received from Chinese participants and 262 survey responses were received from American participants.

Results show that American student users’ positive strategic SNS involvement to a certain extent assisted in their adaptive coping and adjustment. The positive effect of positive strategic SNS involvement was not found as an adaptive coping strategy among Chinese student respondents. Specifically, self-efficacious American student users and users with more online social capital were more likely to positive strategically involve in Facebook to cope with stress adaptively. Perceived support from friends on Facebook was the key connecting positive strategic SNS involvement and adaptive coping. The findings suggest that the quality time each user spent on Facebook could be transferred to positive power that is psychologically rewarding for individual users and socially beneficial for one’s online community when Facebook is taken as a channel to learn from each other, to provide and receive support, as well as to convey positive emotions. Theoretical and practical implication of this research is discussed.