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WIU Faculty Member's New Social Network Study Investigates How People Use Facebook to Maintain Friendships

January 3, 2014


MACOMB, IL – New social networking research by a Western Illinois University faculty member investigates how individuals use Facebook to maintain their friendships.

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.

McEwan's research is one of several recent projects on human communication and technology from Western's communication department. McEwan and David Zanolla, an instructor in the communication department, also published the article "When online meets offline: A field investigation of modality switching" in the July 2013 issue of Computers and Human Behavior. Assistant Professor Chris Carpenter published "Exploring romantic relationships on social networking sites using the self-expansion model" in the same issue. In addition, in 2012 Carpenter published "Narcissism on Facebook: Self-promotional and Anti-social Behavior," in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.

"Communication scholars are interested in how people use communication technology, such as social media, to facilitate social network connections. In particular, we study how communication technologies intersect with message processes," McEwan added.

For more information, contact McEwan at B-McEwan@wiu.edu.

Posted By: WIU News, University Relations
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