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Social media helps users embrace differences and provide support to one another, MU study finds
Date:1/10/2014

COLUMBIA, Mo. According to recent statistics, more than 175 million tweets are sent daily, and 11 accounts are created every second on Twitter. One celebrity who boasts the highest amount of global subscribers is singer Lady Gaga who enjoys more than 40 million Twitter followers. Now, University of Missouri communication researchers have found that online social media gives users an outlet to embrace their differences and provide emotional support to others while deepening perceived relationships they feel they have with celebrities.

"Our work tends to focus on studying audiences who are maligned or consider themselves awkward," said Melissa Click, assistant professor of communication in the MU College of Arts & Science. "In our study of Lady Gaga followers, we found that she uses social media not for promotion but rather as a communication tool with her fans. She shares personal and 'insider' information through social media and develops feelings of intimacy with her followers. By revealing her embrace of her own differences and unusual behaviors she allows her followers to embrace their own differences."

Click and her team found in some cases emotional support was a matter of life or death. Researchers interviewed several fans who identified as gay, who had eating disorders, who considered themselves different or who were taunted relentlessly. They reported that Gaga instilled strength in them through her acceptance of their differences, which gave them a reason to live. In addition, the social support network Lady Gaga fosters encourages her followers to be more charitable to each other, Click said. Often fans create support communities that allow her followers to encourage and inspire others in times of difficulty.

"We found that among the more salient themes that emerged from our research was that participants' perceived relationships with Gaga affected how close they felt to her," Click said. "They felt that she is the voi
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Contact: Jeff Sossamon
sossamonj@missouri.edu
573-882-3346
University of Missouri-Columbia
Source:Eurekalert  

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