February 1, 2010

Social Network Activity and Social Well-Being

ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI)

By: Moira Burke, Cameron Marlow, Thomas Lento

Abstract

Previous research has shown a relationship between use of social networking sites and feelings of social capital. However, most studies have relied on self-reports by college students. The goals of the current study are to (1) validate the common self-report scale using empirical data from Facebook, (2) test whether previous findings generalize to older and international populations, and (3) delve into the specific activities linked to feelings of social capital and loneliness.

In particular, we investigate the role of directed interaction between pairs – such as wall posts, comments, and “likes” – and consumption of friends’ content, including status updates, photos, and friends’ conversations with other friends.

We find that directed communication is associated with greater feelings of bonding social capital and lower loneliness, but has only a modest relationship with bridging social capital, which is primarily related to overall friend network size. Surprisingly, users who consume greater levels of content report reduced bridging and bonding social capital and increased loneliness. Implications for designs to support well-being are discussed.