"What mainly goes up… is not the core network but the number of casual contacts that people track more passively"
The Social Brain Hypothesis (Dunbar, 1998) tested on Facebook, using generic behavioural closeness metrics (number of friends who people a) post on their wall, status updates or photos; or b) message/chat with), by the social network’s in-house sociologist Cameron Marlow.
from The Economist (26 Feb 2009): Social networks: Primates on Facebook
"How You Met Me: We describe the locations, relationships, and circumstances that contribute to formations of friendships that are represented on Facebook"
Adamic, L. A., Lento, T.M. and Fiore, A.T. (2012). How You Met Me. ICWSM’12 short paper.
full text pdf
According to their analysis of responses of more than 2.5 million posts to the popular Facebook meme, “Leave one memory of how you met me…” from July 2010 to Nov 2011, the team identify trends in the source of connections made on the social network.
A really excellent analysis.
Fantastic graph detailing differences in categories by age (a significant categorical difference). Majority of responses across all age groups - by a mile - is school, although this reduces in number as respondents get older. Work is next popular for respondents of all age groups except <18 years old, whose second most-frequent connection is “birth”, denoting a parent, sibling or other family member.
Only gender differences:
Men were 57% more likely to meet a friend through sports than women, while women were 34% more likely than men have befriended a neighbor.
As for future research, the authors propose:
There may also be some close ties, e.g. siblings and spouses, who play a disproportionate role in shaping individuals social networks in ways that have not been studied on a large scale.
Facebook is clearly therefore more about reinforcing existing relationships than forging new ones, echoing a recent comment at a lecture I gave from an undergraduate student, “if you want to make new friends, don’t go to Facebook. Go to a dating site.”
"sharing personal information with students (on Twitter) can increase the perceived credibility of the instructor"
Johnson, K. A. (2011). The effect of Twitter posts on students’ perceptions of instructor credibility. Learning, Media and Technology, Vol 36(1): 21-38.
full text pdf
A small-scale study that shows an increase in students’ perceptions of instructor credibility (competence, trustworthiness & caring) as a function of self-disclosure on Twitter. Specifically there was evidence for an increase in ratings of credibility if the instructor used the microblogging platform to tweet about personal information.
Interestingly, there was no evidence of an effect between social-only tweets (greatest credibility of all) and a combination of social and instructional tweets, or instructional-only tweets and the combination of social and instructional tweets.
I like this explanation:
No longer do teachers need to use class time to reveal bits of personal information about themselves: instead, this revelation of information can take place outside of class in a forum where students can choose whether to look at it.
"apparently trivial uses and features of SNS actually play an important role in setting the social and informational context of the rest of the conversation"
Radovanovic, D. & Ragnedda, M. (2012). Small talk in the digital age: Making sense of phatic posts. In Proceedings of the #MSM2012 Workshop. 16 April 2012, Lyon, France.
A great position paper about how our apparent nonsense on twitter and facebook actually serves an important social function.
"Rather than conflicting with people’s community ties, we find that the internet fits seamlessly with in-person and phone encounters. With the help of the internet, people are able to maintain active contact with sizable social networks, even though many of the people in those networks do not live nearby. Moreover, there is media multiplexity: The more that people see each other in person and talk on the phone, the more they use the internet. The connectedness that the internet and other media foster within social networks has real payoffs: People use the internet to seek out others in their networks of contacts when they need help"
Rainie, L., Horrigan, J., Wellman, B. & Boase, J. (2006, Jan 25). The Strength of Internet Ties, Pew Internet & American Life Project.
A large-scale study of the effects of the web on social capital and relationships between Americans. Published in 2006, it focusses less on social networks like Facebook and more on tech like email.
Positive in general. “Part of everyday life”. Useful in putting social networks in motion when people “need help with important issues in their lives” because people have more active ties with a broader range of people than offline.
Summary of the findings:
"Although the numbers of friends people have on these sites can be massive, the actual number of close friends is approximately the same in the face to face real world"
Warning: you can’t make real friends online | Technology | The Guardian
Research from 2007 by Dr. Will Reader of Sheffield Hallam University.
You just have to know what to look for when you’re trying to identify how close virtual friends are.
I found “tells” of friendship closeness in my PhD research, by measuring “closeness” as degrees of perceived trust, credibility and group prototypicality, and the degree to which virtual contacts are considered to be sources of social comparison.
But there are many ways researchers who spend much of their time measuring relationships - particularly social network analysts - try to delineate the contents of a connection between people. Some choose to look at the semantic differences defined by the target population (Diane Kirke even found that her population distinguished between “friends” and “pals”), while some look at behaviours, like the amount of communication that passes between people (e.g., Everett Rogers).
Here are other ways you can identify closeness/distance in online relationships, pulled a talk I gave to Ubiquitous Computing students at the University of Nottingham:
Technologically, some people choose to look at the number links between people, say hypertext links between blogs in the blogosphere, or the number of times people refer to one another in instant message chat. On a technology like Twitter, you can look to see who follows who, if the follower follows the followee (aka a reciprocal relationship), and, on top of that, how often they @ one another. Rogers calls that a ’communication closness’, and yes, it’s interesting, but I don’t think it captures everything.
In fact, I feel that if you want to get to the nitty gritty of what defines friendship, you have to look at the psychological features of closeness. Across a vast body of literature about online and offline closeness, I focus on trust. But how do you capture trust relationships through bits and bytes? By identifying who’s giving who money? That’s one way. But the more meat-space way is to ask, outright, who one trusts, or who one feels close to. That was what I had to do.
[In 2006-2008] I studied the people who use Second Life, the online virtual world that became very popular a few years ago. I asked over 750 users users of SL about their almost 6,000 connections. What I found was that indeed, there was a spectrum of closeness relationships between people who didn’t know one another offline, and that this closeness developed in the same way as offline friendships and relationships develop: through sharing, through disclosure, through reciprocation of personal information and through perceptions of similarity. Deb Levine wrote about this a decade ago in her paper, “Virtual Attraction: What rocks your boat”.
Why is this interesting? Well, because many of the theories about how people influence one another’s attitudes and behaviours focus on friendship. The closer the friendship, the more likely attitudes and behaviours will be similar. And if there is the possibility of people influencing one another online, we should understand how they operationalise friendship.
Each community has its own tells. Finding them is about tapping into the community and applying insider knowledge.