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Social media’s have-nots: an era of social disenfranchisement

Xinru Page (Department of Computer Information Systems, Bentley University, Waltham, Massachusetts, USA)
Pamela Wisniewski (Department of Computer Science, University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida, USA)
Bart P. Knijnenburg (Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina, USA)
Moses Namara (Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina, USA)

Internet Research

ISSN: 1066-2243

Article publication date: 2 October 2018




The purpose of this paper is to investigate the motivations, concerns, benefits and consequences associated with non-use of social media. In doing so, it extends Wyatt’s commonly used taxonomy of non-use by identifying new dimensions in which to understand non-use of social media. This framework encompasses a previously unidentified category of non-use that is critical to understand in today’s social media environment.


This is an exploratory interview study with 17 self-identified social media non-users distributed across age groups and socioeconomic backgrounds. A thematic analysis is conducted based on a novel extension of Wyatt’s framework and the risk-benefits framework. This is supplemented by open coding to allow for emerging themes.


This paper provides empirical insights into a formerly uninvestigated population of non-users who are prevented from using social media because of social engagement (rather than functional) barriers. It identifies how these individuals face social consequences both on and off social media, resulting in social disenfranchisement.

Research limitations/implications

This is an initial exploration of the phenomenon using an interview study. For generalizability, future research should investigate non-use with a broader and random sample.

Practical implications

This paper includes design recommendations and implications for social media platform designers to mitigate the consequences experienced by socially disenfranchised non-users.

Social implications

Addressing concerns of this newly identified class of non-users is of utmost importance. As others are increasingly connected, these non-users are left behind and even ostracized – showing the dark sides of social media use and non-use.


This work identifies types of non-use of social media previously unrecognized in the literature.



Page, X., Wisniewski, P., Knijnenburg, B.P. and Namara, M. (2018), "Social media’s have-nots: an era of social disenfranchisement", Internet Research, Vol. 28 No. 5, pp. 1253-1274.



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Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

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