Online and Offline Social Networks : Use of Social Networking Sites by Emerging Adults

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Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology 29 (2008) 420–433

Contents lists available at ScienceDirect

Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology

Online and offline social networks: Use of social networking sites by emerging adults☆ Kaveri Subrahmanyam a,b,⁎, Stephanie M. Reich c, Natalia Waechter b,d,e, Guadalupe Espinoza b,d a b c d e

Department of Psychology, California State University, Los Angeles, United States Children's Digital Media Center, UCLA/CSULA, United States Department of Education, University of California, Irvine, United States Department of Psychology, UCLA, United States Austrian Institute of Youth Research, Vienna, Austria

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Social networking sites (e.g., MySpace and Facebook) are popular online communication forms among adolescents and emerging adults. Yet little is known about young people's activities on these sites and how their networks of “friends” relate to their other online (e.g., instant messaging) and offline networks. In this study, college students responded, in person and online, to questions about their online activities and closest friends in three contexts: social networking sites, instant messaging, and face-to-face. Results showed that participants often used the Internet, especially social networking sites, to connect and reconnect with friends and family members. Hence, there was overlap between participants' online and offline networks. However, the overlap was imperfect; the pattern suggested that emerging adults may use different online contexts to strengthen different aspects of their offline connections. Information from this survey is relevant to concerns about young people's life online. © 2008 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Available online 15 August 2008 Keywords: Online communication Interconnection Intimacy Friend networks Emerging adults

1. Introduction Over the past decade, the communication uses of the Internet have become a very important part of young people's lives (e.g., Gemmill & Peterson, 2006; Jones, 2002; Lenhart & Madden, 2007; Subrahmanyam & Greenfield, 2008). Social networking sites are the latest online communication tool that allows users to create a public or semi-public profile, create and view their own as well as other users' online social networks (boyd & Ellison, 2007a), and interact with people in their networks. Sites such as MySpace and Facebook have over 100 million users between them, many of them adolescents and emerging adults. Although research on young people's use of social networking sites is emerging (e.g., boyd & Ellison, 2007b; Ellison, Steinfield, & Lampe, 2007; Valkenburg, Peter, & Schouten, 2006), questions remain regarding exactly what young people do on these sites, whom they interact with on them, and how their social networking site use relates to their other online (such as instant messaging) and offline activities. Furthermore, because of the potential to interact with known others as well as meet and befriend strangers on these sites, it is important to study the nature of their online social networks in order to get an understanding of how such online communication relates to young people's development. The goals of the present study were to explore emerging adults' use of social networking sites for communication and examine the relation between their online and offline social networks.

☆ Natalia Waechter thanks the Austrian Ministry of Science for financial support. We thank the following students for their invaluable research assistance: Roy Cheng, David Drachman, Cheryl Groskopf, Elaine Hess, Jennifer Lai, Judith Murray, Tatevik Natanyan, Nina Tran, Erika Zambrano-Morales, Darab Zarrabi and Kim Zhu. Thanks also to Hilda Anwyl, Janice Li, Stefanie Okimura, and Mollie Tobin. ⁎ Corresponding author. Department of Psychology California State University, Los Angeles 5151 State University Drive Los Angeles, CA 90032-8227, United States. Tel.: +1 323 343 2279....
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