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The Black catalyst to tweet: the role of discrimination experience, group identification, and racial agency in Black Americans’ instrumental use of Twitter

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The strong presence of Blacks on Twitter has attracted scholarly attention, but few empirical studies have provided a clear, theory-driven answer to the question of how Blacks use Twitter. Drawing on the uses and gratifications framework and the rejection-identification model, we examined how discrimination experience, group identification, and racial agency influence Black Americans’ instrumental use of Twitter. An online survey conducted with a national adult sample of 323 Black American Twitter users showed that the experience of discrimination in everyday settings indirectly predicted three types of instrumental use of Twitter (information seeking, opinion expression, and social networking) through serial mediation of group identification and racial agency. The direct effects of discrimination experience on the three types of instrumental use were not significant, nor were the indirect effects of discrimination experience on instrumental use only through group identification and only through racial agency. These results indicate that Black Americans’ goal-driven, purposeful use of Twitter may be understood as a form of problem-focused coping with discrimination experience. The current findings also suggest that Black users’ identification with their racial group and desire to make a positive difference in the Black community constitute a pivotal mechanism underlying their instrumental use of Twitter.
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Keywords: Black Americans; Twitter; discrimination; group identification; instrumental use; racial agency

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School of Communication, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, USA

Publication date: August 3, 2018

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