The quality of online and offline relationships: The role of multiplexity and duration of social relationships

  • Mesch G
  • Talmud I
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Recent studies have shown that adolescents use the Internet not only to maintain social relationships with distant relatives and friends but also to create new relationships online; some of these friendships become integrated into their social circle. Research has focused mainly on the effect of the Internet on existing relationships or the nature of online-only ties, so studies comparing the quality of online and face-to-face relationships are missing. The goal of this study is to bridge this gap. In keeping with previous studies on so- cial association, we argue that the quality of social relationships is dependent on duration and diversity of topics and activities carried together.Timeis important, as it facilitates thedevelopmentofacol- lective shared history and identity. Intimacy develops through the participation in shared activities and discussion of diverse issues of personal concern. Using a representative sample of the adolescent population in Israel, we find that closeness to a friend is a function of social similarity, content and activity multiplexity, and duration of the relationships. Friendships originated in the Internet are per- ceived as less close and supportive because they are relatively new and online friends are involved in less joint activities and less topics of discussion. The implications of the findings are discussed.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Computer-mediated communication
  • Internet use
  • Online and offline social networks
  • Strength of ties

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  • Gustavo Mesch

  • Ilan Talmud

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