PACIS 2019 Proceedings


Individual online community (OC)users sometimes withdraw their OC membership in destructive ways. In our study, we observe an interesting phenomenon in which many OC highly respected users delete all their posts when leaving the OC. Why do online community users self-destruct upon departure? In this research-in-progress paper, we propose a theoretical reversal of cognitive absorption that not only induces an individual user to participate excessively in the OC activities, but also to strongly bond with their participation. This bond is such that, upon deciding to withdraw from the OC, the user proactively removes all traces of their participation. It is a process of cognitive discharge, a reversal of cognitive absorption such that the user destroys his/her presence in the OC. In a cognitive discharge, the user works meticulously and extensively to delete all posts and user accounts. Effectively the user is firing the OC. To examine this theory, we plan to conduct a longitudinal case study of China’s biggest online automobile community – The study results will have both theoretical and practical implications.