Online social networks have become one of the most widely used sources of information in the world and also an important part of our daily life. A huge boost to their spreading came with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. As social distancing and lockdown orders due to COVID-19 health emergency grew more pervasive, individuals began to spend more time online and to use social networks (SNs) to keep up to date regarding the spread of pandemic and also to maintain communication with friends and family and reduce isolation. Given these evidences, the present study aims to investigate the social supporting role of SNs during the pandemic emergency. Specifically, it intends to analyze (a) the use of SNs as a means of interaction in the face of the social containment imposed by the COVID-19 spreading, and (b) the factors (homophily, trust, loneliness, and emotional instability) that affect such use. An online survey with a sample of 194 Italian people was conducted. Structural equation modelling was used to estimate the model proposed. Results revealed that sense of belonging to SNs had a strong impact on search for social support and is, in turn, positively influenced by trust in SNs and homophily. Emotional instability also increased the search for social support. The study contributes both theoretically and empirically to the understanding of the role of SNs in influencing individual behavior. As the use of SNs continues to spread around the world, understanding why consumers rely in SNs and what gratifications they receive from them is undoubtedly of interest for both academics and practitioners.
International Journal of Business and Management / Vergura, Donata Tania; Luceri, Beatrice; Zerbini, Cristina. - In: INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF BUSINESS AND MANAGEMENT. - ISSN 1833-3850. - 16:5(2021), pp. 133-145. [10.5539/ijbm.v16n5p133]
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