Bibb Latane’s Social Impact Theory

There are many cultural theories swarming our present society, but one in particular stood out to me while conducting research for my thesis paper. This was social impact theory, or the idea that actions or thoughts of an individual can be changed due to direct interactions with another individual. Bibb Latane first introduced this term in 1981, and said that social impact theory was based on three components. The first was strength, or how important the influencing group was to the individual in question. The second was immediacy, or the actual proximity to the influencing group during influencing attempts. The last was number, which of course relates to the amount of people in the influencing group. He said that these three were the key factors related to how likely it was for a person to be influenced by another individual. This caused me to start thinking about social media (as it is the topic of my paper) and why this theory is said to not be applicable in this context. Strength did not seem to be affected by social media. Closeness of relationships is not directly indicated by social media. However, I can see how the stipulation of immediacy could be critiqued. When brands use social media to try to gain a following, they often end up with a large number of followers from multiple different areas of the world. However, to a social media viewer, a large number of followers in general indicates quality no matter who or where the followers may be situated. Therefore, I also believe that number is a component of social impact theory that is enhanced by social media usage.


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