Abstract - The Information Society 22(3)

The Quality of Online and Off-line Relationships: The Role of Multiplexity and Duration of Social Relationships

Gustavo Mesch and Ilan Talmud

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 the current study is to bridge this gap. In keeping with previous studies on social association, we argue that the quality of social relationships is dependent on duration and diversity of topics and activities carried together. Time is important as it facilitates the development of a collective 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 perceived 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.


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