Socializing in the Crowd: Impact of Physical Crowdedness on Social Media Usage

Posted: 28 Apr 2023

See all articles by Xiaoni Lu

Xiaoni Lu

Xi'an Jiaotong University (XJTU) - School of Management

Siliang Tong

Nanyang Business School, Nanyang Technological University

Hyeokkoo Eric Kwon

Nanyang Business School, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Xi Zhao

Xi'an Jiaotong University (XJTU) - School of Management

Hsing Kenneth Cheng

University of Florida - Warrington College of Business

Date Written: April 26, 2023

Abstract

While public transit is a major place where people devote their time to smartphones, particularly social media usage, the literature has paid scant attention to how contextual factors in public transit affect the individual usage behavior of social media. Building upon prior literature on stress and social media as a stress reliever, this study examines the impact of physical crowdedness on users’ content consumption and generation behaviors on social media platforms. To this end, in collaboration with a major wireless telecom provider in China, we collect detailed information on smartphone usage behavior among 200,000 randomly selected individuals on a major public subway line in Qingdao, China. The results demonstrate a positive causal relationship between crowdedness and content consumption and generation on social media platforms, even after controlling for potential endogeneity of crowdedness. A series of additional analyses provide consistent support for the proposed mechanism that crowdedness promotes social media usage by inducing stress. Further analyses reveal that the positive crowdedness impact is contingent on network structures and communication modes that each social media facilitates as well as a specific time of day and individuals’ previous exposure to crowdedness. This study contributes significantly to the research on social media and stress by highlighting the positive role of crowding-induced stress in social media usage. Multiple actionable, effective practical implications for social media platforms and advertisers are also provided.

Keywords: crowdedness; social media, content generation; content consumption; stress

Suggested Citation

Lu, Xiaoni and Tong, Siliang and Kwon, Hyeokkoo Eric and Zhao, Xi and Cheng, Hsing Kenneth, Socializing in the Crowd: Impact of Physical Crowdedness on Social Media Usage (April 26, 2023). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4429977

Xiaoni Lu (Contact Author)

Xi'an Jiaotong University (XJTU) - School of Management ( email )

Siliang Tong

Nanyang Business School, Nanyang Technological University ( email )

Singapore, 639798
Singapore

Hyeokkoo Eric Kwon

Nanyang Business School, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore ( email )

S3 B2B-71, 50 Nanyang Avenue
Singapore, 639798
Singapore

HOME PAGE: http://sites.google.com/view/erickwon/

Xi Zhao

Xi'an Jiaotong University (XJTU) - School of Management ( email )

28,Xianning West Road
Xi'an, Shaanxi 710049
China

Hsing Kenneth Cheng

University of Florida - Warrington College of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 117169
Gainesville, FL 32611-7169
United States
352-392-7068 (Phone)
352-392-5438 (Fax)

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