Business & Management Research Centre: Jui Ramprasad

Friday, April 19, 2024 10:30to12:00
Bronfman Building Room 046, 1001 rue Sherbrooke Ouest, Montreal, QC, H3A 1G5, CA

Jui Ramprasad

Robert H. Smith School of Business
University of Maryland

Tainting the Discourse
The Role of Incivility in Shaping Subsequent User Engagement

Date: Friday, April 19, 2024
Time: 10:30 am - 12:00 pm EDT
Location: Bronfman Building, Room 046


Digital platforms rely on user interaction and engagement often through user created content, e.g. in online Q&A forums like Reddit, but the proliferation of uncivil content on these platforms that happens in parallel adversely impacts safety and community. We examine the interplay between incivility and engagement and suggest that understanding this relationship requires a more nuanced definition of incivility than the binary categorization (content is either uncivil or not), used in the IS literature. More specifically, we examine how three levels of incivility in an initial post impacts the subsequent quantity, novelty, and incivility of the subsequent content. Leveraging a unique dataset from the largest online community in South Korea, we categorize incivility (extreme, mild, or no incivility) using large language models and estimate their impact on engagement using causal forests. Theorizing based on emotional arousal and cognitive dissonance, our findings reveal several novel insights. While uncivil content can increase user engagement due to emotional arousal, its effectiveness varies with the level of incivility due to differences in the level of cognitive dissonance it evokes. Extremely uncivil content, which we posit triggers stronger emotional arousal but also potentially stronger cognitive dissonance, leads to a notable decrease in the novelty of subsequent content. Conversely, mildly uncivil content, by eliciting emotional arousal without substantial cognitive dissonance, promotes a more diverse and novel range of user responses. Still, both levels of uncivil content (extreme and mild) are linked to an increased subsequent extreme incivility and a decreased no-incivility discourse. This outcome underscores the interplay between emotional arousal and cognitive dissonance in shaping user reactions to uncivil content and highlights the importance of exploring incivility beyond a simple binary measure. Our findings provide an important understanding of how incivility relates to engagement.

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