Comparing the Effects of Traditional Media and Social Media Use on General Trust in China During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Although previous studies have indicated a generally positive association between social media use and general trust, the differential impacts of traditional media and social media on general trust and their underlying mechanisms have yet to be fully elaborated. Drawing on the three-dimensional definition of social capital (i.e., personal networks, social norms, and interpersonal trust) as its theoretical framework, this study comparatively examines the impacts of traditional media and social media on general trust, focusing on the mediating role of social capital. Analyses of survey data from China (N = 1,519) during the first stage of COVID-19 demonstrate that social media has a positive relationship with general trust. In addition, social media has two opposing indirect effects on general trust through increased interpersonal trust and personal networks. In contrast, traditional media use has no positive relationship with general trust, either directly or indirectly, although it has a positive relationship with social norms. The differential consequences of using traditional media and social media on general trust are discussed from the perspective of social capital.