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According to (McQuail, 2005), the Uses and Gratification theory is generally seen as a theory
that is closely linked to research on media effects. It is an approach to gaining insight on how
and why people look for particular media to satisfy particular needs.
The theory of uses and gratifications was first introduced by an American sociologist Elihu Katz
in 1959 in an article in which he explained that communication research was near extinction
because researchers only focused on the effects the media had on people. He therefore suggested
that researchers focus rather on how media is used (Severin & Tankard, 2001).
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The theory basically has to do with what audiences do with the media. It explains users’
motivation in choosing media and the behaviours associated with it. The theory postulates that
“people are not passive receivers of media messages but active influencers of the effects of the
messages the media communicates.” In other terms, receivers of media content are at liberty in
choosing and determining their use of media and how they are affected by it (Rae, 2011).
Theorists have stated that users look for a media source that best satisfies their needs although
they may have alternate choices that can meet their needs.
McQuail (2005), states that the theory “seeks to explain the uses of media and the satisfactions
derived from them in terms of motives and self-perceived needs of audience members.” As
active influencers of the effect media has on them, users of media identify, choose, and retain
media messages.
According to Ruggerio (2000), internet users choose activities online that satisfy needs like
“entertainment, information and social interaction.” Uses and Gratification theory therefore
shows an affirmative relationship between the choice of using social media and the gratification
users get when they use it.
Many studies carried out also have applied the Uses and Gratifications Theory to explain issues
related to social media use and internet as a whole some of which are Charney & Greenberg
(2001), Parker & Plank (2000), Papacharissi & Rubin (2000), Dimmick et al.
(2000), LaRose, Mastro & Eastin (2001), Chou & Hsiao (2000), Stafford (2001), Song, LaRose,
Lin & Eastin (2002), Ferguson & Perse (2000) and Flanagin & Metzger (2001); to cite a few.
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According to Rice and Williams (1995) “the new media provide fertile test beds for many of our
theories and models.” They also state that the uses and gratifications theory is a good way of
analysing new media such as the Internet and in essence social media since it is a subset of the
internet. The Uses and Gratification theory has been used as a frontline theoretical method in
analysis whenever there is a new mass communication medium. An instance can be cited as the
times during which radio, television, and most recently the Internet were introduced (Ruggerio,
2000). Ruggerio again states that the Uses and Gratification theory is important for internet
related research because of its ability to examine new technologies with regards to its strengths
in evaluating new media because of their characteristics. This assertion is backed by Severin &
Tankard (2001) who admit that the uses and gratifications theory is extremely effective
as technology moves the universe into the electronic information age.
Based on this, the researcher chose to apply this theory to study the use of social media among
students of the University of Ghana.
2.1.2 Media Systems Dependency Theory
Since its introduction, the Media Systems Dependency theory (MSD) has served as a theoretical
foundation for analysing the relationship between people and the choice and use of media.
The Media Systems Dependency theory was proposed by Sandra Ball-Rokeach and Melvin
DeFleur in 1976 in an article that sought to describe why media could have cognitive, affective
and behavioural effects on different people in different ways. Media Systems Dependency theory
regards audience as an active part in the communication process.
The theory posits that, individuals have a goal when choosing the media they use and are active
in the making of this decision. It also suggests that the more a person relies on a specific media
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to satisfy his or her needs, the more the media will become significant to him/her (Encyclopaedia
of communication theory, 2009). This therefore shows an affirmative connection between the
need for gratification and dependency. According to (LaRose & Eastin, 2002) internet addictions
are generally “habits” that are initiated when the “gratification sought”, starts to have an effect
on users which may lead to preoccupation with it. With repetitive use and engagement in
favourite online activities, it gradually becomes a habitual behaviour that may be triggered with
little or no intention or control.
Digital media have developed and has become an essential part of people’s lives. With the
growth of social media in recent times and its frequent use by many, over-dependency on it for
media needs by students may be a probable cause of addiction to it. The Media Systems
Dependency theory has been used as the theoretical basis for some studies of the Internet such as
Jung et al (2001) and Dhavan et al (2001) and can therefore help explain findings of this study. 

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