Facebook Makes the Heart Grow Fonder:
Relationship Maintenance Strategies Among
Geographically Dispersed and
Communication...
Credit: Photos_by_Lis

Why relationship maintenance matters

2

#cscw2014 | @jvitak
But being near friends isn’t always easy…

3
4
Ways to connect distant ties
What do we mean by
“distant,” anyway?
Letters (pen pals!)
Phone (landline, mobile,
texts)
...
“I suspect that Facebook’s one great
contribution has been to slow down that
rate of relationship decay by allowing
us to ...
How are people using Facebook to maintain
relationships with different types of social ties?
Is Facebook merely a suppleme...
Facebook Profile
Layout
October 2012
Participants were asked to
log into site, go to their
profile and select Friend in
to...
Why use this method?
 Major weakness of
relationship
maintenance research is
limited focus on strong
tie relationships.

...
Reported Geographic Distance Between Friends
(estimated driving distance)
150

# of respondents

120
90
60
30

M=3.13 (2+ ...
Weak ties who live
very far apart

Strong ties
who live
near each
other
11

#cscw2014 | @jvitak
Facebook Relationship Maintenance
 Supportive Communication (7 items): behaviors signaling social
& emotional support; so...
Facebook’s Impact on
Relational Quality
Two new measures assessed the extent to which Facebook
users felt their use of Fac...
RQ1: Examining variance in communication
frequency based on geographic proximity

14

#cscw2014 | @jvitak
Facebook-Specific
Communication Frequency

Non-Facebook
Communication Frequency

T-tests with ANCOVAs controlling for rela...
H1 & H2:
Geographic proximity, relationship
maintenance, & Facebook’s impact on
relational quality

16

#cscw2014 | @jvita...
Extent to which they agreed with statements about
behaviors/outcomes (1-5 Likert type scale)

4

3.5

3

2.5

2

1.5
Suppo...
H3 & H4:
Facebook as primary form of communication,
relationship maintenance, & Facebook’s impact
on relational quality

1...
How do you operationalize
Facebook as the primary
form of communication
between a dyad?
 Want high engagement in
Facebook...
Extent to which they agreed with statements about
behaviors/outcomes (1-5 Likert type scale)

4.5

4

3.5

3

2.5

2

1.5
...
But what’s it all mean?
Use of Facebook for relationship maintenance—
and perceived relational benefits—vary by context
 ...
But what’s it all mean?
Facebook as a “virtual rolodex”
 Role of affordances
 Reduced transaction costs
 Benefits of ma...
Design Implications
Encourage interactions between users after a profile visit
Predicting Friends a user will want to inte...
Thanks!
Jessica Vitak
University of Maryland’s iSchool
Email: jvitak@umd.edu | Twitter: @jvitak
Find this paper at jessica...
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#cscw2014 -- Facebook Makes the Heart Grow Fonder: Relationship Maintenance Strategies Among Geographically Dispersed and Communication-Restricted Connections

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Read the paper here: http://vitak.files.wordpress.com/2009/02/vitak-cscw2014-distance.pdf

Abstract: The increasing ubiquity of information and communication technologies has dramatically impacted interpersonal communication and relationship maintenance processes. These technologies remove temporal and spatial constraints, enabling communication at a distance for low to no physical costs. Research has established that technologies such as email supplement other forms of communication in relationship maintenance, but to what extent do newer technologies—which contain a unique set of affordances—facilitate these processes? Furthermore, do SNS users engage in different practices through the site and obtain different relational benefits based on specific characteristics of the tie? Findings from a survey of adult Facebook users (N=415) indicate that geographically distant Facebook Friends, as well as those who rely on the site as their primary form of communication, engage in relationship maintenance strategies through the site to a greater extent and perceive the site to have a more positive impact on the quality of their relationships.

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  • Slide 15 comment: While independent samples t-tests reveal significant differences for all of the “non-Facebook” forms of communication (with geographically proximate connections interacting more frequently through all channels except Skype), there were no significant differences when looking at the various forms of Facebook interaction between those who lived nearby and those who lived far away.

    When we control for relational closeness (via ANCOVA), two types of Facebook interaction—commenting on a Friend’s post and browsing a Friend’s photos—do show significant differences, with those living farther away engaging in these behaviors more frequently.
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  • Slide 20 comment: Results for the Facebook as Primary Communication variable were very similar to Geographic Distance, with the exception that Supportive Communication was significant in the initial t-test and remained so in the ANCOVA. In addition, while Shared Interests remained non-significant in this analysis, the trend was opposite from Geographic Distance.
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  • Slide 19 comment: Creating a variable that captured a subset of the sample who were relying on Facebook as their primary method of interaction with their selected Friend proved challenging. To do this, I wanted individuals who reported low (or no) engagement outside of Facebook and moderate to high engagement within Facebook. Rather than look at every communication channel separately, I first ran all the non-Facebook and Facebook communication activities through two factor analyses and created two variables: Traditional Communication, which included face-to-face, phone, text, and email communication; and Facebook Communication, which included wall posts and commenting or liking content (measured as separate items).

    Next, I ran a frequency analysis and examined the deciles for each variable, which are presented in the table. I computed several versions of the variables to determine the percentage of the sample that would be included and settled on the following cutoffs: scores of 2 or below (rarely or never)
    on traditional communication and scores above 3 on Facebook communication (trending toward often or very often). This accounted for 12.8% of the sample, or 52 participants.
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  • Slide 17 comment: Here we see t-test results looking at the relationship between geographic proximity and two sets of outcome variables: relationship maintenance and Facebook’s perceived impact on relational quality. The initial t-tests support the hypothesis that those who live farther away are engaging in more passive consumption and social information seeking, but there was no support for supportive communication or shared interests. A follow-up ANCOVA controlling for relational closeness provided support for supportive communication, but the relationship remained non-significant for shared interests, with the relationship trending toward those who live nearby engaging in more of this behavior (a possible reason for this is that many shared interests may require collocation, such as friends who play on a kickball team together).

    The t-tests and ANCOVAs provide strong support for the hypothesis that those who live farther away perceive Facebook as having a more positive impact on their relational quality than those who live nearby.
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#cscw2014 -- Facebook Makes the Heart Grow Fonder: Relationship Maintenance Strategies Among Geographically Dispersed and Communication-Restricted Connections

  1. 1. Facebook Makes the Heart Grow Fonder: Relationship Maintenance Strategies Among Geographically Dispersed and Communication-Restricted Connections Jessica Vitak College of Information Studies University of Maryland jvitak@umd.edu | @jvitak jessicavitak.com/cv Credit: Norebbo
  2. 2. Credit: Photos_by_Lis Why relationship maintenance matters 2 #cscw2014 | @jvitak
  3. 3. But being near friends isn’t always easy… 3
  4. 4. 4
  5. 5. Ways to connect distant ties What do we mean by “distant,” anyway? Letters (pen pals!) Phone (landline, mobile, texts) Text-based CMC (email, IM) Video-based CMC (Skype, Google Hangouts) Social network sites 5
  6. 6. “I suspect that Facebook’s one great contribution has been to slow down that rate of relationship decay by allowing us to keep in touch with friends over long distances.” --Robin Dunbar (2011, p. 83) 6 #cscw2014 | @jvitak
  7. 7. How are people using Facebook to maintain relationships with different types of social ties? Is Facebook merely a supplement to to other forms of communication, or does it enhance relational quality for certain types of relationship? 7 #cscw2014 | @jvitak
  8. 8. Facebook Profile Layout October 2012 Participants were asked to log into site, go to their profile and select Friend in top left position. They entered name of person into a survey field. Questions were then tailored to the selected Friend (e.g., Closeness item: “John and I have a strong connection”). 8 #cscw2014 | @jvitak
  9. 9. Why use this method?  Major weakness of relationship maintenance research is limited focus on strong tie relationships.  Many Facebook relationships are weak ties.  Furthermore, many Facebook relationships span significant geographic distance. Dibble et al. (2012) Unidimensional Relationship Closeness Scale 9 #cscw2014 | @jvitak
  10. 10. Reported Geographic Distance Between Friends (estimated driving distance) 150 # of respondents 120 90 60 30 M=3.13 (2+ hour drive) SD=2.05 0 <30 mins 30-60min 1-2hr 2-4hr 34% of sample 4-6hr 6+hr 28% of sample 10 #cscw2014 | @jvitak
  11. 11. Weak ties who live very far apart Strong ties who live near each other 11 #cscw2014 | @jvitak
  12. 12. Facebook Relationship Maintenance  Supportive Communication (7 items): behaviors signaling social & emotional support; social grooming behaviors  Shared Interests (7 items): interactions on site surrounding shared likes, activities, etc. (e.g., TV show, sports team)  Passive Consumption (4 items): browsing Friend’s content without direct interaction  Social Information Seeking (5 items): mundane communication + discovering new things about Friend 12 #cscw2014 | @jvitak
  13. 13. Facebook’s Impact on Relational Quality Two new measures assessed the extent to which Facebook users felt their use of Facebook impacted their relationship with a specific Friend: 1.Facebook’s Impact on Relational Closeness (5 items): Facebook helps me understand (person’s name) better. Facebook has positively impacted my relationship with (person’s name). 2.Facebook’s Impact on Relational Stability (4 items): Without Facebook, (person’s name) and I would fall out of touch. Facebook plays an important role in maintaining my relationship with (person’s name). 13 #cscw2014 | @jvitak
  14. 14. RQ1: Examining variance in communication frequency based on geographic proximity 14 #cscw2014 | @jvitak
  15. 15. Facebook-Specific Communication Frequency Non-Facebook Communication Frequency T-tests with ANCOVAs controlling for relational closeness 4 3 2 1 0 Face-to-Face * Phone Calls * Texting * Email * IM * Skype * 3.5 3 2.5 2 1.5 1 0.5 0 Private Messages Nearby Friends Wall Posts Far Away Friends Like Content 15 Comment Visit Profile Browse Photos * Statistically Significant Difference (t-test)
  16. 16. H1 & H2: Geographic proximity, relationship maintenance, & Facebook’s impact on relational quality 16 #cscw2014 | @jvitak
  17. 17. Extent to which they agreed with statements about behaviors/outcomes (1-5 Likert type scale) 4 3.5 3 2.5 2 1.5 Supportive Communication Nearby Friends Shared Interests Far Away Friends Passive Consumption 17 Social Information Seeking FB Impact on Closeness FB Impact on Stability #cscw2014 | @jvitak
  18. 18. H3 & H4: Facebook as primary form of communication, relationship maintenance, & Facebook’s impact on relational quality 18 #cscw2014 | @jvitak
  19. 19. How do you operationalize Facebook as the primary form of communication between a dyad?  Want high engagement in Facebook communication (e.g., posting on wall, commenting on updates) and low engagement in all other forms of communication (e.g., face-to-face, phone, email) 21.8% of responses  Final variable included 12.8% of participants with TradComm scores below 2.25 & FBComm scores above 3. 19 #cscw2014 | @jvitak
  20. 20. Extent to which they agreed with statements about behaviors/outcomes (1-5 Likert type scale) 4.5 4 3.5 3 2.5 2 1.5 Supportive Communication Shared Interests Passive Consumption Social Information Seeking FB Impact on Closeness FB Impact on Stability Facebook is Not Primary Form of Communication Facebook is Primary Form of Communication 20 #cscw2014 | @jvitak
  21. 21. But what’s it all mean? Use of Facebook for relationship maintenance— and perceived relational benefits—vary by context  Suggested supplemental role of Facebook for closer (geographically & emotionally speaking) ties  Potential for enhancing role for weaker connections & keeping relationships from fading away See Vitak (2012): Keeping Connected in the Facebook Age 21 #cscw2014 | @jvitak
  22. 22. But what’s it all mean? Facebook as a “virtual rolodex”  Role of affordances  Reduced transaction costs  Benefits of masspersonal communication Media multiplexity considerations  Is Facebook one or multiple communication channels?  How do newer communication technologies reshape our understanding of media multiplexity? 22 Credit: arahinvegas #cscw2014 | @jvitak
  23. 23. Design Implications Encourage interactions between users after a profile visit Predicting Friends a user will want to interact with in the future Look at interaction patterns with mutual friends Customize News Feed content Focus on ways to not be creepy when encouraging interaction 23
  24. 24. Thanks! Jessica Vitak University of Maryland’s iSchool Email: jvitak@umd.edu | Twitter: @jvitak Find this paper at jessicavitak.com/cv This project was part of my dissertation research, so a big shout-out to my graduate advisor, Nicole Ellison, for her Yoda-like wisdom on the project. 24 #cscw2014 | @jvitak

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