Social networking services (SNSs) have been praised for their social capital (SC) benefits. However, the time displacement hypothesis in Internet research may challenge such an optimistic view. In response to this challenge, this study aimed to develop a theoretical model that uncovers the transformation, rather than displacement among online and offline SC in terms of bonding and bridging types during SNSs use.
The concept of SC was divided into the following four types: offline bonding, online bonding, offline bridging and online bridging. A theoretical model grounded in individual ambidexterity theory was developed that uncovered the transformation among these types of SC, and it was tested a sample of WeChat users in China. Furthermore, the theoretical model included the concept of cognitive ambidexterity, which promotes transformation.
As an exploitation process, offline bonding SC mediated the relationship between SNSs use and online bonding SC. As an exploration process, online bridging SC mediated the association between SNSs use and offline bridging SC. In addition, cognitive ambidexterity moderated the exploration and exploitation processes positively.
This study demonstrated that SNSs users strategically and successfully manage SC benefits through exploitation and exploration processes, and ambidextrous individuals can do this more effectively. Accordingly, this study proposed the transformation hypothesis in the SNSs context.
The work described in this article was fully supported by grants from Shanghai University of Finance and Economics (Project No. CXJJ-2017–422, CXJJ-2018–392). The first two authors contributed equally to this study.
Zheng, D., Huang, L. and Kim, K.J. (2021), "How ambidextrous social networking service users balance different social capital benefits: an evidence from WeChat", Internet Research, Vol. 31 No. 2, pp. 479-496. https://doi.org/10.1108/INTR-09-2019-0366
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