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Do social networking sites promote life satisfaction? The explanation from an online and offline social capital transformation

Lin Huang (School of Economics and Management, Huzhou University, Huzhou, China)
Daqing Zheng (School of Information Management and Engineering, Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, Shanghai, China)
Weiguo Fan (Tippie College of Business, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa, USA)

Information Technology & People

ISSN: 0959-3845

Article publication date: 24 February 2021

Issue publication date: 28 March 2022

1037

Abstract

Purpose

The use of social networking sites (SNSs) can promote life satisfaction mainly because of their social relationship benefits. Although prior studies examined the roles of different types of social capital (SC), the association between online and offline SC is ignored. This research addresses this gap by uncovering a mechanism of transformation between online and offline SC in terms of bonding and bridging types when linking SNSs usage and life satisfaction.

Design/methodology/approach

Categorizing the concept of SC into four sub-types from bonding/bridging and online/offline dimensions, the paper establishes a theoretical framework based on the transformation mechanism among these four kinds of SC. A component-based approach, partial least square method, is chosen for hypothesis testing with a survey-based sample collected from WeChat users.

Findings

First, SNSs usage is positively related to life satisfaction and four types of SC (i.e. online/offline and bonding/bridging SC). Second, both online bonding SC and offline bridging SC are positively related to life satisfaction and can mediate the relationship between SNSs usage and life satisfaction. Third, offline bonding SC is positively related to online bonding SC and can mediate the relationship between SNSs usage and online bonding SC; on the contrary, online bridging SC is positively related to offline bridging SC and can mediate the relationship between SNSs usage and offline bridging SC.

Practical implications

In the environment of SNSs, users can take vigorous strategies to better balance online and offline spaces and improve life satisfaction by adapting to the characteristics of SNSs in developing different types of SC. Specifically, it is encouraged for users to transfer online bridging SC into offline space and offline bonding SC into online space.

Originality/value

To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this is the first study exploring the association between online and offline SC when linking SNSs usage and life satisfaction. Instead of the single transformation direction from online to offline in prior Internet research, this research has revealed different transformation directions between online and offline SC in terms of bonding and bridging types in the context of SNSs.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors sincerely thank the senior editor, Dr. Yuan Sun, and the anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments. The work for the corresponding author Daqing Zheng was partially supported by the National Social Science Foundation of China (Grant ID: 20BGL287).

Citation

Huang, L., Zheng, D. and Fan, W. (2022), "Do social networking sites promote life satisfaction? The explanation from an online and offline social capital transformation", Information Technology & People, Vol. 35 No. 2, pp. 703-722. https://doi.org/10.1108/ITP-03-2020-0143

Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited

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