The value affordances of social media engagement features

Rebecca Scharlach*, Blake Hallinan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Social media engagement is ubiquitous but contested, simultaneously framed as an everyday form of support and an urgent societal risk. To make sense of these competing claims, we introduce the concept of value affordances, defined as the set of ethical, aesthetic, and relational principles that emerge from the interaction between different stakeholders and technological infrastructures. We develop a novel method involving focus groups and value cards to study the value affordances of engagement features and explore how international students attribute values to the Like, Comment, and Share buttons of TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube. Across platforms, participants agree that engagement features promote expression, care, and community and hinder privacy, mindfulness, peace, and safety. We discuss how our participants navigate value tradeoffs, emphasizing individual agency over structural factors when evaluating the design of platforms, using social media creatively, and assigning responsibility for harm to other users.

Original languageAmerican English
JournalJournal of Computer-Mediated Communication
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
VC The Author(s) 2023. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of International Communication Association.


  • Instagram
  • TikTok
  • YouTube
  • affordances
  • platform values
  • social media engagement


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