Trust is a fundamental asset for economic development. Social media have been credited with the potential of reinvigorating trust by offering new opportunities for social and political participation. This view has been recently challenged by the rising phenomenon of online incivility, which has made the environment of social networking sites (SNS) increasingly hostile to users.
Online incivility is a manner of harassing behavior that can range from aggressive commenting in threads, incensed discussion and rude critiques, to outrageous claims, hate speech, and more severe forms of harassment such as purposeful embarrassment and physical threats. Pew Research Center (PRC) reports that the majority of Americans have been targeted, or have witnessed others being targeted, with online incivility. The descriptive evidence available so far indicates that social media users perceive incivility as the norm of online interaction.
Given the penetration of social media and the importance of trust in the economic activity, the role of SNS-mediated social interaction is also a relevant topic for economic research. What are the consequences of online incivility and civility on social media users’ trust in others? Does incivility weaken the positive potential of social media?