Skip to main content Skip to secondary navigation
Article Newspaper/Magazine

The role of subjective construals on reporting and reasoning about social media us


The ways people estimate and make sense of the time they spend with social media should be influenced by the subjective construals that they draw on to guide their perceptions and behaviors on social media. Through qualitative analysis of 60 interviews, we identify how subjective construals of social media can influence two distinct processes relevant to the study of social media effects. First, we find that the process of estimating and self-reporting time spent on social media is influenced by differences in how people construed “social media” in field-standard questions. Conceptual variability in definitions of “social media,” aggregated time spent across multiple sessions and platforms, and perceived norms about use affected their responses. Second, we find that participants’ reasoning about the role of social media in their lives revolved around two key construals about the valence of its effects (positive vs negative) and their perceived agency relative to social media (being in control vs subject to control). People who felt in control of their use also viewed social media more positively, and those who felt controlled by social media viewed it more negatively. These conceptualizations of the nature and effects of social media use—which we discuss as social media mindsets—were closely tied to behaviors and outcomes. These two findings have fundamental implications not only for survey methodologies in social media research but also for how we conceptualize the relationship between social media use and psychological outcomes.

Angela Y. Lee
Roberta Katz
Jeffrey Hancock
Social Media + Society
Publication Date
August 6, 2021