Impact of Online Social Media Communication and Offline Geographical Distance on Elder Users’ Intergenerational Isolation: From Technology Affordance Perspective

  • Xiaolun Wang
  • Jie GuEmail author
  • Anan Hu
  • Hong Ling
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 10926)


Social media technology has become an integral part in elders’ daily communication. While there is an intense interest among HCI scholars to design effective function and interface to assist elder users’ digital communication, a theoretical understanding to guide this design is lacking. To address this research gap, this study examines the effect of social media communication on elders’ perception of intergenerational isolation. From the perspective of technology affordance (functional vs. emotional), we examines both the role of online usage behavior of social media (frequency and form) and offline intergenerational distance (geographical distance). 107 interview-based survey results show that: (1) Elders with a higher level of functional affordance are willing to try diverse social functions to communicate with their children, while emotional affordance will increase elders’ intergenerational communication frequency; (2) Communication frequency can reduce elders’ perceived intergenerational isolation, but diversity of communication forms cannot; (3) Unexpectedly, geographical distance significantly decrease elders’ perception of intergenerational isolation, because of the mediator role of increased intergenerational communication frequency and forms in social media. Our research has profound theoretical and practical implications.


Technology affordance Intergenerational isolation Social media Elder people 



This work was supported by the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities, 30918013104; National Science Foundation of China (grant #71702103); Research Foundation in Nanjing University of Science & Technology (grant #AE89955), and the China Ministry of Education-China Mobile research grant (#MCM20150402).


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Nanjing University of Science and TechnologyNanjingChina
  2. 2.Shanghai Academy of Social SciencesShanghaiChina
  3. 3.Fudan UniversityShanghaiChina

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