General Online Research 2011

March 14-16, 2011, Heinrich-Heine University of Düsseldorf


Conference Agenda

Overview and details of the sessions of this conference. Please select a date or room to show only sessions at that day or location. Please select a single session for detailed view (with abstracts and downloads if available).

Session Overview

C1: Relationships and Online Etiquette

Time: Tuesday, 15/Mar/2011: 10:30am - 11:30am
Session Chair: Heiner Barz


Self-disclosure Online: How social network sites socialize their users towards more openness by offering social rewards

Sabine Trepte, Leonard Reinecke

Hamburg Media School, Germany

Relevance & Research Question

There virtually is no Social Web without self-disclosure in virtual public spaces. The existence of the “Social Web” depends on the willingness of its users to contribute content and to grand insights into their private lives through network profiles, private photos or video clips. The constant availability of intimate information online has caused considerable public debate and raises concerns about the potential effects of the Social Web on its users’ ideas of self-disclosure. It is often speculated that feelings of anonymity fostered by the Web 2.0 environment cause a loss of social distance and alter users’ psychological disposition to self-disclose. Therefore the following research questions arise: Does social network size use socialize its users towards more openness (socialization hypothesis)? Or do particular people, who are fond of disclosing private information online, actively select social network sites to live out their psychological tendency to self-disclose (selection hypothesis)? What are the rewards that reinforce social network site use and self-disclosure online (moderation hypothesis)?

Methods & Data

In a two-wave longitudinal study (N= 488) participants were surveyed within a 6month interval. Data were analyzed using structure equation modeling.


The data significantly supports the hypotheses. If users go online in social network sites frequently, they increasingly tend to self-disclose online. The social network site socializes its users toward more openness. Additionally, users with the disposition to self-disclosure, use the social web more frequently over time. Both causalities are enforced by social rewards. Social rewards such as getting in touch with others and making friends online increase self-disclosure.

Added Value

This study offers two new perspectives: First, the study presents causal effects in terms of how network use influences the psychological disposition for self-disclosure. There have been cross-sectional and correlational results in that area and these may now be generalized to a long-term perspective. Second, the study shows, how social rewards interact with self-disclosure and network site use. It demonstrates that social rewards accelerate psychological effects social network site use may have.

Who’s Gossip in Chief – Archaic gratifications of high tech users

Astrid Carolus, Frank Schwab, Michael Brill

Universität Würzburg, Germany

(a) Relevance & Research Question:

Social media respectively web2.0 has changed our media scene. To understand what is social about social media the medium itself but also the user has to be focused.

Ethnographic research names two third of face-to-face-conversation “gossip” because social issues are discussed (Dunbar, 1997). Examining that quantity of resources invested proximate but also ultimate explanations postulate advantages of gossip (Dunbar, 2004). This gives rise to two questions: Are web2.0-applications and especially social networking sites (SNS) that popular because they satisfy human needs by copying central functions of gossip? What are the needs the users want to supply by investing in SNS?

(b) Methods & Data:

In a first study (n=240) a questionnaire referring to a classification by De Backer (2006) was developed which measures gossip aspects within SNSs. A second study investigates gratifications. Using qualitative (n=200) and quantitative (n=252) methods another questionnaire is developed which reveals the users’ gratifications. Finally a third study registers patterns of web2.0-usage, gossip-topics and gratifications of SNS-users along individual motives (assessed by the "Motive Profile following the Zurich Model", Schönbrodt et al., 2009) and personality (factors from an evolutionary psychological approach relevant in the context of mating (Schmitt & Buss, 2000) complement the Big Five).

(c) Results:

Study 1 reveals eight gossip-scales (cooperation, mating, intrasexual conflicts, kinship, calibration, health, alliances, social norms) with good internal consistencies (alpha > 0,82). Within evaluating construct validity expected correlations with a parallel test („Attitudes toward gossip“, Litman & Pezzo, 2005) were confirmed. Study 2 establishes ten gratification-scales grouped on four dimensions (self-, information-, relationship-management, cognitive-affective tool). Study 3 displays and discusses inter-relations between gossip-topics, gratifications, personality and motives.

(d) Added Value:

The success of social networking sites is considered as a result of their closeness to the functions of gossip and their fit to individual needs. Understanding SNS as a high tech form of gossip is derived from evolutionary considerations. By doing so a new way of understanding SNS and its gratifications is developed aiming at the emotional and archaic aspects of media use which have been neglected by standard cognitive approaches.

Carolus-Who’s Gossip in Chief – Archaic gratifications-189.pptx

Relationship Management on Social Networking Sites: A Explorative Analysis of Students’ Close Friendship Relationships.

Alexander Bohn, Nicola Döring

Ilmenau University of Technology, Germany

Relevance & Research Question

The growing body of psychological and sociological research on Social Networking Sites (SNS) - such as Facebook or studiVZ - so far focuses mainly on identity issues (self-presentation, impression formation, identity work) and relationship effects (social capital). A neglected research topic is the management of personal relationships on SNS, especially the maintenance of close friendships via SNS-based interactions: How do users use SNS in order to maintain and manage their close friendships as well as their social networks in general?


An explorative online survey with n=121 undergraduate students at a German university (79 female, 42 male) was conducted. The students were asked about interaction processes that take place within their closest friendship. Especially the students were surveyed about their usage of studiVZ and various other communication channels (mobile-, online-, face-to-face-, postal-communication) for interactions with there close friends.


The study revealed that students use several communication channels to interact with their close friends. Among these online-communication and mobile-communication are most relevant. In the frame of online-communication SNS are the most used service followed up by Instant Messengers. The students use selected functions and applications provided by SNS, such as messages, pin/bulletin boards, profile visits or photo uploads almost daily to foster their close friendships in diverse ways. Mobile Communication (SMS, calls) as well as face-to-face-meetings are also relevant for the maintenance of student’s close friendships.

Added Value

The study is one of the first that analyzes interactions within close friendships on SNS as a part of the relationship management of SNS users. It revealed that students actively use online-communication channels, such as SNS, to maintain close friendships as well as their relationships in general. Further the study showed that (close) personal relationships become an increasingly important aspect of internet usage and therefore should be considered in future viral marketing campaigns, for example.

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