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Computer-Mediated Communication in Personal Relationships

Edited By Kevin B. Wright and Lynne M. Webb

This is the first collection of readings on computer-mediated communication focusing exclusively on interpersonal interactions. Examining messages exchanged via email, Twitter, Facebook, websites, and blogs, the authors analyze communication issues of ongoing importance in relationships including deception, disclosure, identity, influence, perception, privacy, sexual fidelity, and social support. The book examines subjects that attract intense student interest – including online performance of gender, online dating, and using computer-mediated communication to achieve family/work life balance – and will inspire further research and course development in the area of computer-mediated communication in personal relationships. Because it provides a synthesis of ideas at the nexus of interpersonal communication theory and computer-mediated communication theory, the book can serve as a textbook for advanced undergraduate as well as graduate courses.
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1. A Functional Approach to Social Networking Sites (Erin M. Bryant / Jennifer Marmo / Artemio Ramirez / Jr.)

Extract

CHAPTER ONE

A Functional Approach to Social Networking Sites

Erin M. Bryant

Jennifer Marmo

Artemio Ramirez, Jr.

The widespread use of social networking websites (SNSs) is one of the most groundbreaking communication trends to emerge in recent years. Since its creation in 2004, sites such as Facebook have become immensely popular among college students. Many SNSs continue to experience exponential growth. Facebook, for example, reached 100 million active users in August 2008 and proceeded to quadruple this membership base to surpass 400 million active users by July 2010 (Facebook.com). In addition to maintaining astronomically high membership rates, SNSs also appear to be part of user’s daily schedules. In one study assessing Facebook use, Ellison, Heino, and Gibbs (2006) found that participants reported using the site an average of 10 to 30 minutes each day, with 21% of participants spending more than an hour on the site every day. As a result, high membership and usage rates suggest SNSs hold significant power as a relational and social tool for users.

Coinciding with the growth in membership have been significant advances in research that suggest SNSs may serve important interpersonal and relational functions for users. For instance, although the growing body of literature investigating SNSs is still in its infancy, most suggest one of their central functions is the maintenance of existing off-line relationships. Other research, however, reports SNSs may be used to initiate relationships, seek social information about potential...

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