This study explores the supportive and informational uses of social network sites that facilitate adaptation to transition. This study focuses on the transition to college, a major life event requiring integration into new settings, the negotiation of informational challenges, and the mastery of new roles and identities. Adaptation to transition is a complex process contingent upon the management of stress associated with transition and general integration into the transitional environment.
Social network sites represent a connective infrastructure within personal networks. Because social network sites are inherently connective, they afford a location for provision and receipt of social support during transition, and a site for the acquisition of information necessary for integration into the transitional environment. Drawing on data collected directly from a social network site that describes the networked activity of a freshman class over the course of their first semester at college, from a sample survey of freshmen with 1,198 respondents, and from 15 semi-structured interviews, this research has two primary components.
In the first component of analysis, I explore the structure and dynamics of socio-technical networks during transition. Using exponential random graph modeling, I identify the role and magnitude of preference, socio-demographic, and configuration factors in structuring socio-technical networks during transition. I then use an econometric framework to demonstrate that certain types of information sharing and profile change are associated with socio-technical network growth.
In the second component of analysis, I explore uses of social network sites that facilitate adaptation to transition. Using multiple regression and structural equation modeling, I demonstrate that supportive and social-informational uses of social network sites in transition exert a direct and mediated positive effect on overall adaptation. I then draw on interviews to explore supportive and informational uses of the social network site during transition, finding that social network sites are useful in pre-transition preparation, for social adaptation, and for academic support throughout the transition. Upon evaluation, I demonstrate that a social network site is a useful place to turn for the social and informational support that facilitates adaptation to transition.