February 1, 2011

Social Capital on Facebook: Differentiating Uses and Users

ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI)

By: Moira Burke, Robert Kraut, Cameron Marlow

Abstract

Though social network site use is often treated as a monolithic activity, in which all time is equally “social” and its impact the same for all users, we examine how Facebook affects social capital depending upon: (1) types of site activities, contrasting one-on-one communication, broadcasts to wider audiences, and passive consumption of social news, and (2) individual differences among users, including social communication skill and self-esteem.

Longitudinal surveys matched to server logs from 415 Facebook users reveal that receiving messages from friends is associated with increases in bridging social capital, but that other uses are not. However, using the site to passively consume news assists those with lower social fluency draw value from their connections.

The results inform site designers seeking to increase social connectedness and the value of those connections.