Results from Adults use of Social Networking Sites
(Gustavo S. Mesch, University of Haifa,
Principal Investigator email@example.com)
Almost 10 years ago, when Robert Kraut et al. revised their data on the social impact of the Internet  they argued for a “rich get richer” hypothesis of Internet effects on society. The “rich get richer” hypothesis argues that using the Internet predicts better outcomes for those with more social support and worse outcomes for those with less support.
Following this reasoning I ask if social support predicts the frequency of use of social networking sites and the types of use. It make sense that individuals use social media according to their existing levels of involvement in social ties. The effect of social support on social media use can be expected to have different forms.
- The “no-effects” hypothesis will argue that loneliness and social support will not affect the use. Individuals use social media for different motives (entertainment, keeping up to date) but do not attempt to change their existing levels of social support. In other words, the effect of social support on frequency and type of use will be statistically non-significant.
- The “detrimental effects” hypothesis argues that loneliness and social support are a stable individual personality characteristic that does not lead to a change in our use of social media. The lonely do not attempt to make friends face-to-face and do not attempt to this through social media. The ones having a high level of social support will keep up with their friends as this is a characteristic of their personality. Thus, social support is expected to have a positive effect on the use of social media, the more lonely a person feels the less the use and the higher the social support the more frequent the use.
- The “compensation” hypothesis suggest that individuals attempt to compensate for their lack of social support face-to-face attempting to connect with others through social media. Thus, in this framework social support is negatively associated with the frequency of use of social networking sites. The higher the social support the less the use. Conversely, the lower the perceived social support (the more lonely) the higher the frequency of use of SNS.
Data for this study Data for this study was collected on September 2009. The study included a sample of Internet users that were approached by a company that has expertise in the use of a panel of Internet users for conducting web based surveys. In the study participated 1264 Internet users from Israel that answered a web based survey of 45 questions that took about 30 minutes to complete. The average age of the sample was 29.16 years old (S.d. 6.77), 44.1 percent were married and 55.9 percent single, 46 percent were males and 54 percent females. In terms of education 5.5 percent of the sample had less than high school education, 28.2.8 % had high school education, 58.1 partial or completed college education and 8.3 percent a graduate degree. Overall 62.7 percent reported using SNS on a daily or weekly basis.
The first table shows the results of a multivariate analysis predicting frequency of SNS use.
* Age and gender are not associated with the frequency of SNS use.
*The higher the education the lower the use of SNS.
*The single are more frequent uses of SNS than the single.
*Social support is positively associated with frequency of SNS use. This finding supports the “detrimental hypothesis” lonely are less frequent users and the ones with high social support are higher users.
Yet, from recent research on college students, it is known that SNS are differentially used by different individuals. Some use the sites for maintaining social ties with family and close friends and others for the expansion of social ties.
How social support is associated with type of use, for social tie expansion and social tie maintenance? I conducted a multivariate analysis predicting different types of use.
The results are different according to the type of Internet use.
Using the Internet to maintain existing social ties is associated with
* Gender: Women use the Internet to maintain existing social ties more than men.
*Marital Status: the married use the Internet to maintain social ties.
*Social support is positively associated with using the Internet for the maintenance of existing social ties.
Using the Internet to expand social ties is associated with
* Age and gender. Older individuals use more the Internet to expand social ties than younger and males use the Internet to expand their social ties more than women.
*Social support. The higher the perception of social support the lower the use of social networking sites to expand social ties. Conversely, the lonely are more likely to use SNS to expand social ties.
The results indicate that the association between perceived social support and the use of social networking sites provides support both for the detrimental and compensation hypothesis. The “detrimental” hypothesis is only supported for using the Internet for maintaining social ties. Individuals with high levels of social support use the Internet for maintaining ties with the existing friends and family. The “compensation” effect is supported for individuals with low social support that use the social media to expand their social ties.
Whether they are successful in their attempt, is a question that remains open for the next post, as I have the data to show this.
Kraut, R., Kiesler, S., Boneva, B., Cummings, J.; Helgeson, V.,&Crawford, J. (2001). The Internet Paradox Revisited. Journal of Social Issues, 58