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Do Social Network Sites Increase, Decrease, or Supplement the Maintenance of Social Ties?

Communication and Information Technologies Annual

ISBN: 978-1-78441-454-2, eISBN: 978-1-78441-453-5

Publication date: 30 January 2015


This paper investigates the mechanics of multimedia tie maintenance, with a particular emphasis upon social network sites (SNSs) and their uses and gratifications. We present results from a national sample of American adults (N = 571) of all ages, investigating the associations of several attitudinal and social variables with multimedia tie maintenance. We find that Facebook is used to maintain social ties at rates comparable to other media and is increasingly used to connect with close ties, contrary to previous literature. We also uncover highly significant patterns of “expressive” and “instrumental” engagement, isolating distinct expressive/instrumental orientations toward digital media in general and Facebook specifically. Respondents who displayed an expressive pattern of engagement with Facebook did not use non-SNS media to maintain ties any less frequently than those who do not use Facebook expressively. Respondents who displayed an instrumental pattern of engagement with Facebook meanwhile, supplemented their lack of SNS use to maintain ties by using other media more frequently for this purpose. This paper contributes to the literatures of media multiplexity, networked individualism, uses and gratifications theory, and social capital through SNSs. It makes a significant contribution to understanding the psychological and social gratifications of digital media, and their relationship to patterns of multimedia tie maintenance.




The order of authorship reflects the authors’ relative contribution to the paper. We are grateful to Audrey King, Vicki Hoverman, and Vitalie Sprinceana for their contributions to the construction of the survey instrument. A previous version of this paper was presented at the 106th annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in Las Vegas, NV (August 20–23, 2011).


Lynn, R. and Witte, J.C. (2015), "Do Social Network Sites Increase, Decrease, or Supplement the Maintenance of Social Ties?", Communication and Information Technologies Annual (Studies in Media and Communications, Vol. 9), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 79-106.



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