Date of Award

5-2015

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Legacy Department

Communication, Technology, and Society

Committee Member

Dr. Melinda R. Weathers

Committee Member

Dr. Erin Ash

Committee Member

Dr. Brenden E. Kendall Sullivan

Committee Member

Dr. Andrew Pyle

Abstract

In 2014, snowstorms hit the southern U.S. and paralyzed the Atlanta, Georgia metropolitan area. The people of Atlanta and the surrounding areas accessed a Facebook group page, SnowedOut Atlanta (SOA), and some used it to strategically survive the storm. The social media posts produced by the residents of Atlanta before and after the storm provide a rich case of study for health-related, crisis Communication and social media scholars. The objective of this thesis was to investigate the use of social media for the SOA Facebook group through the analyses of wall posts. In order to explore this line of inquiry, quantitative analyses were conducted. The study examined one online support group through a content analysis of member posts to the SOA Facebook page. This analysis examined the uses of affective and cognitive needs of members of an online support group during a crisis event through the lens of uses and gratification theory (Katz et al., 1973). A total of 986 posts were coded for seven categorical variables. The content analysis yielded interesting results that shed light on the adoption of social media during a crisis or disastrous event. The results concluded that the SOA Facebook page was used to satisfy more cognitive needs as oppose to affective needs. Analyses also indicated that women posted to the page more than men. This research had many implications for health and risk Communication professionals. Future research should aim to develop a deeper understanding of why and how social media supports strategic and tactical risk Communication efforts a community, organization or corporation may employ during a disastrous or crisis event.

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