How Strong are our Weak Ties? Examining the Usefulness of Facebook Friendship in Youths' Life from the Social Penetration Theory

Saurabh Maheshwari, Tuheena Mukherjee


Studies show the advantages and disadvantages of Facebook friendship, however, few compare Facebook friends with real-life friends. The present study follows the social penetration theory in exploring the differences in the formation of Facebook and face-to-face friendships and their patterns of support access. An offline survey was done on 253 undergraduate students. Results show that formations of these two are very different in terms of demographics, like- gender, socio-economic status, and siblings. Further, it is found that Facebook friends are counted at the time of emergency and financial need but not considered useful when it comes to emotional support. The present work suggests that though Facebook friendship has few traits of friendship, it not an extension of friendship. From the formation to the outcome there are differences in both kinds of friendship, however, it seems that Facebook friends are able to serve some purpose of friendship.


Facebook Friendship; Friendship; Social Support; Facebook; Social Penetration theory

Full Text:



Altman, I. & Taylor, D. A. 1973.Social penetration: the development and dissolution of interpersonal relationships. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Amichai-Hamburger, Y., Kingsbury, M., & Schneider. B. H. 2013. Friendship: an old concept with a new meaning? Computers in Human Behavior, 29 (1), 33-39. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2012.05.025.

Berndt, T. J. 1982. The features and effects of friendship in early adolescence.Child Development, 53 (6), 1447-1460.

Berndt, T. J. 1986. Sharing between friends: context and consequences. In E. C. Mueller and C. R. Cooper, eds. Process and outcome in peer relationship (pp. 105-127). San Diego: Academic Press.

Brandtzæg, P. B. 2012. Social networking sites: their users and social implications - A longitudinal study. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 17 (4), 467–488. doi:10.1111/j.1083-6101.2012.01580.x.

Brandtzæg, P. B., Luders, M., & Skjetne, J. H. 2010.Too many Facebook “friends”?content sharing and sociability versus the need for privacy in social network sites. International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction,26 (11-12), 123–138. doi:10.1080/10447318.2010.516719.

Buote, V. M., Wood, E., & Pratt, M. 2009. Exploring similarities and differences between online and offline friendships: the role of attachment style. Computers in Human Behavior, 25 (2),560–567. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2008.12.022.

Cook, E. C., Buehler, C., & Fletcher, A. C. (2012). A process model of parenting and adolescents' friendship competence. Social Development,21(3), 461-481.doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9507.2011.00642.x

Debatin, B., Lovejoy, J. P., Horn, A. K., & Hughes, B. N. 2009.Facebook and online privacy: Attitudes, behaviors, and unintended consequences. Journal of Computer‐Mediated Communication, 15 (1), 83-108. doi:10.1111/j.1083-6101.2009.01494.x.

Economic Times (2015). report/ article/45978668.cms (Retrieved on 27th July, 2015)

Ellison, N. B., Steinfield, C., & Lampe, C. 2007. The benefits of Facebook ‘‘friends:’’ social capital and college students’ use of online social network sites. Journal of Computer- Mediated Communication, 12 (4), 1143–1168. doi:10.1111/j.1083-6101.2007.00367.x.

Gangadharbatla, H. 2008. Facebook me: Collective self-esteem, need to belong, and internet self-efficacy as predictors of the iGeneration's attitudes toward social networking sites. Journal of Interactive Advertising, 8 (2), 5-15. doi:10.1080/15252019.2008.10722138.

Greenhow, C. & Robelia, B. 2009. Old communication, new literacies: social network sites as social learning resources. Journal of Computer‐Mediated Communication, 14 (4), 1130-1161. doi:10.1111/j.1083-6101.2009.01484.x.

Hargittai, E. 2008.Whose space? differences among users and non-users of social network sites. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication,13 (1), 276–297. doi:10.1111/j.1083-6101.2007.00396.x.

Hays, R. B. (1984).The development and maintenance of friendship. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 1 (1),175-98.doi:10.1177/0265407584011005.

Hays, R. B. (1985).A longitudinal study of friendship development. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 48 (4), 909-924. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.48.4.909.

Hofstede, G. (2001). Culture's consequences (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Johnston, K., Tanner, M., Lalla, N., & Kawalski, D. 2013. Social capital: the benefit of Facebook ‘friends’. Behaviour & Information Technology, 32 (1), 24-36. doi:10.1080/0144929X.2010.550063.

Jiang, Y. & de Bruijn, O. 2014. Facebook helps: a case study of cross-cultural social networking and social capital. Information, Communication & Society, 17 (6), 732-749. doi:10.1080/1369118X.2013.830636.

Kirschner, P. A. & Karpinski, A. C. 2010. Facebook® and academic performance. Computers in Human Behavior, 26 (6), 1237-1245.doi:10.1016/j.chb.2010.03.024.

Laurenceau, J. P., Barrett, L. F., & Pietromonaco, P. R. 1998. Intimacy as an interpersonal process: the importance of self-disclosure, partner disclosure, and perceived partner responsiveness in interpersonal exchanges. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,74 (5), 1238-1251. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.74.5.1238.

Lee, J. E. R., Moore, D. C., Park, E. A., & Park, S. G. 2012.Who wants to be “friend-rich”? social compensatory friending on Facebook and the moderating role of public self-consciousness. Computers in Human Behavior, 28 (3), 1036-1043. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2012.01.006

Lewis, J. & West, A. 2009. ‘Friending’: London-based undergraduates’ experience of Facebook. New Media & Society, 11 (7), 1209-1229.doi:10.1177/1461444809342058.

Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50(4), 370-396.

Muscanell, N. L. & Guadagno, R. E. (2012). Make new friends or keep the old: gender and personality differences in social networking use. Computers in Human Behavior, 28 (1), 107-112.


Nadkarni, A. & Hofmann, S. G. (2012). Why do people use Facebook? Personality and Individual Differences, 52 (3), 243-249. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2011.11.007.

Notley, T. 2009. Young people, online networks, and social inclusion. Journal of Computer‐Mediated Communication, 14 (4), 1208-1227. doi:10.1111/j.1083-6101.2009.01487.x.

Oden, S. H., Hertzberger, S. D., Mangaine, P. L., & Wheeler, V. A. 1984. Children's peer relationships: an examination of social processes. In J. C. Mastesand and K. Levin-Yarkin, eds. Boundary areas in social and developmental psychology (pp. 182-213). New York: Academic Press.

Parks, M. R. & Floyd, K. 1996. Meanings for closeness and intimacy in friendship. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 13 (1), 85-107. doi:10.1177/0265407596131005.

Raacke, J. & Bonds-Raacke, J. 2008.MySpace and Facebook: applying the uses and gratifications theory to exploring friend-networking sites. CyberPsychology and Behavior, 11 (2), 169–174. doi:10.1089/cpb.2007.0056.

Rosenberg, J. & Egbert, N. 2011. Online impression management: personality traits and concerns for secondary goals as predictors of self‐presentation tactics on Facebook. Journal of Computer‐Mediated Communication, 17 (1), 1-18. doi:10.1111/j.1083-6101.2011.01560.x.

Ross, C., Orr, E. S., Sisic, M., Arseneault, J. M., Simmering, M. G., & Orr, R. R. 2009. Personality and motivations associated with Facebook use. Computers in Human Behavior, 25 (2), 578–586. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2008.12.024.

Sheldon, K. M., Abad, N., & Hinsch, C. 2011. A two-process view of Facebook use and relatedness need-satisfaction: disconnection drives use, and connection rewards it. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 100 (4), 766-775.

Spencer, L. & Pahl, R. E. 2006. Rethinking friendship: Hidden solidarities today. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

Stefanone, M. A., Kwon, K. H, & Lackaff, D. 2012. Exploring the relationship between perceptions of social capital and enacted support online. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 17 (4), 451-466. doi:10.1111/j.1083-6101.2012.01585.x.

Sullivan, H. S. 1953. The interpersonal theory of psychiatry. New York: Norton.

Tufekci, Z. 2008. Grooming, gossip, Facebook and MySpace: what can we learn about these sites from those who won't assimilate? Information, Communication & Society, 11 (4), 544-564. doi:10.1080/13691180801999050.

Valenzuela, S., Park, N., & Kee, K. F. 2009. Is there social capital in a social network site? Facebook use and college students’ life satisfaction, trust, and participation. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 14 (4), 875–901. doi:10.1111/j.1083-6101.2009.01474.x.

Warren, A. M., Sulaiman, A., & Jaafar, N. I. 2015.Understanding civic engagement behaviour on Facebook from a social capital theory perspective. Behaviour & Information Technology, 34 (2), 163-175.doi: 10.1080/0144929X.2014.934290.

Waters, S., & Ackerman, J. (2011).Exploring privacy management on Facebook: motivations and perceived consequences of voluntary disclosure. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 17 (1), 101–115. doi10.1111/j.1083-6101.2011.01559.x.

Wei, L. 2012. Number matters: the multimodality of internet use as an indicator of the digital inequalities. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 17 (3), 303–318. doi:10.1111/j.1083-6101.2012.01578.x.

Wilson, R. E., Gosling, S. D., & Graham, L. T. (2012).A review of Facebook research in the social sciences. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 7 (3), 203-220. doi:10.1177/1745691612442904.

Zhao, S., Grasmuck, S., & Martin, J. 2008. Identity construction on Facebook: digital empowerment in anchored relationships. Computers in Human Behavior, 24 (5), 1816-1836. doi:10.1177/1461444812472486.

Zywica, J. & Danowski, J. (2008). The faces of Facebookers: investigating social enhancement and social compensation hypotheses; predicting Facebook™ and offline popularity from sociability and self-esteem, and mapping the meanings of popularity with semantic networks. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication,14 (1), 1–34. doi:10.1111/j.1083-6101.2008.01429.x.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Based at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas, USA, The Journal of Social Media in Society is sponsored by the Colleges of Liberal and Fine Arts, Education, Business, and Graduate Studies.