April 26, 2014

Growing Closer on Facebook: Changes in Tie Strength Through Site Use

ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing (CHI)

By: Moira Burke, Robert Kraut

Abstract

Scientists debate whether people grow closer to their friends through social networking sites like Facebook, whether those sites displace more meaningful interaction, or whether they simply reflect existing ties. Combining server log analysis and longitudinal surveys of 3,649 Facebook users reporting on relationships with 26,134 friends, we find that communication on the site is associated with changes in reported relationship closeness, over and above effects attributable to their face-to-face, phone, and email contact.

Tie strength increases with both one-on-one communication, such as posts, comments, and messages, and through reading friends’ broadcasted content, such as status updates and photos. The effect is greater for composed pieces, such as comments, posts, and messages than for “one-click” actions such as “likes.” Facebook has a greater impact on non-family relationships and ties who do not frequently communicate via other channels.