Media and social support : exploring how communication media, personality traits and parasocial interaction affect social support receipt, stress and emotion
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] A primary goal of this dissertation was to examine the ways the media may be used to provide social support for individuals with various personality types, stress, and social support needs. To accomplish this goal, two studies were conducted. The first study utilized a cross-sectional survey design to explore which communication medium was preferred by individuals based on their personality traits, their social support needs, their stress controllability and the type of stress they were currently experiencing. A model of optimal stress-support matching and the uses and gratifications framework were used to underpin this survey research. The second study was a between-subject laboratory experiment attempting to test how social support affects individuals' perceived support receipt, stress and emotion across different communication channels. The results from the survey study failed to provide support to the model of optimal stress-support matching. The role of personality traits was also investigated. Agreeableness and openness were positively associated with perceived need for social support. Perceived social support need revealed positive effects on preference for one-to-one face-to-face interaction and group face-to-face discussion. Further, conscientiousness and neuroticism revealed significant impacts on preferences for using anonymous online communication and one-way media channels for social support. Interaction effects were found between stress types and controllability on one-to-one face-to-face and one-way media preferences. The experiment found that communication channels interacted with neuroticism to affect individuals' positive emotion scores. Specifically, individuals who were high in neuroticism reported higher scores of positive emotion than individuals who were low in neuroticism when they were in the one-way media (i.e. video viewing) condition, whereas the low neuroticism individuals reported higher positive emotion than high neuroticism individuals when they were in the face-to-face condition. Moreover, by specifically examining individuals in the one-way media condition, individuals who were high in perceived parasocial interaction reported higher levels of social support than individuals who were low in social support. This dissertation bridges interpersonal communication and media communication and the findings provide important contribution to social support literature. Findings suggest that, for certain personality types, mediated communication may be an effective tool for social support receipt and stress as well as emotion management. A primary goal of this dissertation was to assist individuals in discovering appropriate ways to seek out, obtain and provide social support. Both social support providers and seekers can benefit from the results regarding which communication means is effective in terms of providing social support to individuals with different needs and personalities.
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