Purposeful Use of Social Media in U.S. Counties: A Multivariate and Geospatial Perspective

Authors: Avijit Sarkar*, University of Redlands, James Pick, University of Redlands, Tridev Raut, University of Redlands
Topics: Media and Communication, Spatial Analysis & Modeling
Keywords: Social Media, Internet, U.S. County, Spatial Autocorrelation, Regression, Purposeful Use
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Virtual 25
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Social media use in the United States has been steadily increasing over the past decade as various social media platforms have become the primary channel of online engagement for the American internet user. Today, Americans use social media to communicate with friends, family, and peers, access entertainment and education, engage in various business and commercial activities, and influence the lifestyles of consumers. As the spectrum of purposeful use of social media diversifies, this paper examines geographic patterns of social media adoption, diffusion, and utilization in U.S. counties. Alongside, the paper also examines determinants of purposeful social media utilization by positing associations of demographic, economic, social capital, societal openness, and infrastructural factors with social media usage. To examine purposeful social media use, the paper focuses on penetration and use of popular social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube in U.S. counties. The purpose of use of such platforms – to engage in e-communication, e-commerce, e-entertainment, e-health, and e-education are also examined through the dual lenses of geographic and socioeconomic variations. By borrowing from classical adoption-diffusion theory (ADT) to the more contemporary Spatially Aware Technology Utilization Model (SATUM), the paper’s conceptual framework posits associations of 18 independent variables with 17 indicators of social media penetration and purposeful usage. Associations are analyzed using OLS regressions and differences are observed between metropolitan, micropolitan, and rural counties. The presence of spatial bias in social media penetration and use among neighboring counties is diagnosed using spatial autocorrelation analysis. Policy implications are discussed.

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