Washington, March 30 (ANI): A University of Kansas professor is researching details of online relationships forged on social networking sites and determining their significance, depth and potential.
Nancy Baym, associate professor of communication studies, became interested early on in how the Internet shapes interpersonal communication and of late has focused her research on social networking sites in particular.
According to Baym, sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter have revolutionized interpersonal relationships for the digital age.
Within these online communities, users share status updates, self-generated media, journal entries and other interpersonal communication with an ever-growing cadre of online friends.
The purpose is to reinforce established friendships and form bonds with new friends.
"They start in the mid-late 1990s based on this idea that Stanley Milgram had that everybody's connected by six degrees of separation - and the first one was actually called 'sixdegrees.com'," said Baym.
"And they're based on the premise that you're more likely to want to get to know people who know people you already know than all-out strangers. So, rather than a dating site that just has people putting up profiles and trying to randomly match, what if you could put up profiles of people that had shared friends. Wouldn't those be more likely to succeed?" she added.
Baym said that the fastest-growing segment on Facebook, originally launched at Harvard for college students, now is people over age 35. The site currently claims more than 175 million active users.
Besides such impressive numbers is the enthusiasm such sites are generating, with many users frequenting social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook multiple times per day.
"Different people have different reasons for compulsive Facebook use," Baym said.
"But, I think it comes down to the fact that there's a continuous dribble - there's always something new - so every time you go, something has changed; somebody has updated their status; someone has sent you a request; someone has posted an item," she added.
Across the social networking sites, online friendships range from close relationships with strong ties to looser affiliations with less connectivity - but both types of friendships are useful. (ANI)