New Social Network Study Investigates How People Use Facebook to Maintain Friendships

Posted on January 7, 2014

Using Facebook to send personal messages or posts to friends promotes closer ties while broadcast-style posts are often disliked (flickr)

Last month, an article by WIU Department of Communication Assistant Professor Bree McEwan was published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking. For her study, "Sharing, Caring, and Surveilling: An Actor–Partner Interdependence Model Examination of Facebook Relational Maintenance Strategies," McEwan was interested in finding out how one friend's maintenance behaviors on Facebook might affect how his or her friend felt about the relationship.

"In order to do this, I collected data from friend dyads and used a statistical technique called the 'actor partner interdependence model,' or APIM. An APIM analysis allows researchers to determine the unique effects that both an individual and his or her friend have on the relational outcomes," she explained. "Through the analysis, I found that behaviors an individual uses to show he or she cares about his or her friend, specifically behaviors uniquely directed to the friend, are related to positive relational outcomes, such as increased closeness or satisfaction with the friendship.

For example, using Facebook to post on a friend's wall or to share condolences or congratulations are linked to feeling closer to the friend and more satisfied with the friendship; however, sometimes people just post broadcast-style status updates as a way to maintain specific relationships. These types of messages are correlated with negative relational outcomes. In addition, the less an individual posts mass status updates to Facebook, the more that person dislikes it when their friends do so."

According to McEwan, the study supports the idea that using Facebook doesn't necessarily promote relational development nor is it detrimental to friendships.

"Rather, the way we choose to communicate with our friends through this medium is what impacts the relationship," she noted.


Source material from Western Illinois University