1. Study suggests effectiveness of online social networks designed to help smokers quit

    November 1, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Iowa press release:

    Online social networks designed to help smokers kick the tobacco habit are effective, especially if users are active participants, according to a new study from the University of Iowa and the Truth Initiative, a nonprofit anti-tobacco organization.

    The study examined the tobacco use of more than 2,600 smokers who participated in BecomeAnEX.org, Truth Initiative’s online smoking cessation community designed in collaboration with the Mayo Clinic. The study found that 21 percent of those classified as active users after their first week in the community reported that they quit smoking three months later. Those who were less active in the community were less likely to quit.

    Kang Zhao, assistant professor of management sciences in the UI Tippie College of Business and the study’s co-author, says the results show that online interactions can predict offline behavior.

    How central you become in the online social network after the first week is a good indicator of whether you will quit smoking,” says Zhao. “This is the first study to look at smokers’ behaviors in an online community over time and to report a prospective relationship between social network involvement and quitting smoking.”

    The BecomeAnEX website enables members to share information and support through blogs, forums, and messages. Although the site is focused on smoking cessation, users can post on any topic. More than 800,000 users have registered since the site launched in 2008, resulting in a large, active community of current and former tobacco users supporting each other.

    Funded by the National Cancer Institute, the study constructed a large-scale social network based on users’ posting habits. Zhao says a key finding was that increasing integration into the social network was a significant predictor of subsequent abstinence. Three months after joining the BecomeAnEX social network, users who stayed involved on the site were more likely to have quit smoking when researchers contacted them to assess their smoking status.

    After three months, 21 percent of active users — or those who actively contributed content in the community — quit smoking; 11 percent of passive users — those who only read others’ posts — quit smoking; and only 8 percent of study participants that never visited quit smoking.

    The study did not examine why greater community involvement had such a positive effect on smoking cessation. Researchers speculate it may be because of powerful social network influences.

    “Spending time with others who are actively engaged in quitting smoking in a place where being a nonsmoker is supported and encouraged gives smokers the practical advice and support they need to stay with a difficult behavior change,” says Amanda Graham, senior vice president, Innovations, of Truth Initiative and lead author. “We know that quitting tobacco can be extremely difficult. These results demonstrate what we hear from tobacco users, which is that online social connections and relationships can make a real difference.”


  2. Study suggests anticipated social media buzz can drive tourism

    October 23, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Georgia press release:

    How much positive feedback travelers think they’ll get on social media can predict whether they intend to visit a tourism destination, a new University of Georgia study has found.

    The research on “social return,” or the number of likes, shares, comments and overall positive feedback travelers expect they’ll get from their travel posts, shows what destination marketers already know, said Bynum Boley, an assistant professor in UGA’s Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources.

    “Social media is influencing the destination selection process,” Boley said. “Results confirm the importance of promoting the symbolic aspects of the destination rather than solely promoting the functional attributes such as price and weather; destination marketers need to consider the anticipated social media buzz travel will create and harness the force behind these symbolic images to influence visitation to the destination.”

    The research team developed and used the “Social Return Scale” to predict whether 758 U.S. travelers intend to visit Cuba over the next year, next five years, and then next 10 years based upon the anticipated positive social media feedback of posting their travel experiences.

    Cuba was chosen as the destination of interest because the recent loosening of travel restrictions under the Obama administration resulted in a rush to see the country before increased U.S. tourism changed the nature of the experience. So it was of interest to see if the expected social return of traveling to Cuba would have a greater influence on intent to visit there in the short term versus long term.

    Results show that across all three times (next year, next five years and next 10 years), the anticipated social return of traveling to Cuba was a good predictor of whether someone intended to visit the country. However, social return had the greatest influence on predicting travel within the next year, the study found.

    These results, Boley said, imply that the more tourists see a destination as having “the right atmosphere for signaling their desired image to their peer groups” through social media, the more likely they are to travel there in the near future.

    “While travel and social standing have a long history of interconnectedness, social media has fundamentally changed the nature of this form of conspicuous consumption,” Boley said. “No longer do peers have to take each other’s word on where they have traveled or wait for the slideshow upon returning from the trip; travelers are now able to receive instant gratification and recognition through posting pictures of their travels.”

    These results have significant implications for tourism marketers, Boley said. They now have to take into account what travelers find social media worthy about a destination to craft their marketing materials. It’s not just about whether someone can afford the trip or if they’ll have an enjoyable time while there, he said.

    “This is especially important as narcissism becomes more normalized and the posting of travel experiences on social media becomes a more prominent primary motivation for travel,” he said.

    These results were recently published in Tourism Management by Boley and co-authors Evan Jordan with Arizona State University, Carol Kline with Appalachian State University, and Whitney Knollenberg with North Carolina State University.


  3. Study examines motivation of Snapchat users

    October 7, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Texas Tech University press release:

    The simplicity of the platform and brevity of posts are key factors in determining how students can become addicted.

    In a world where people struggle with a seemingly diminishing attention span, Snapchat could be the best form of communication.

    Posts last just 10 seconds. That’s it. No deep thoughts or analytical narrative to the posts. Quick, simple and move on to the next topic.

    But a study by Texas Tech University associate professor Narissra Punyanunt-Carter, graduate student J.J. Delacruz and alumni Jason Wrench in the College of Media & Communication shows the interest and popularity of Snapchat goes beyond just its simplicity.

    “People use Snapchat a lot because of its entertainment and functional needs,” Delacruz said. “For certain people, it enables them to overcome communication apprehension by using a different means of communication where they don’t have a threat in their face. At the same time, there are people who are addicted to it. So for counseling purposes, there is a need to establish the motivations to see if maybe they need to use something other than Snapchat, mediated or not, as a way to fulfill their interaction needs.”

    In other words, Snapchat, because of its brevity, can provide the perfect medium for those who are hesitant about communicating their life to a public audience, but at the same time can become addictive because those same properties allow for multiple, quick posts that only last a few seconds.

    “I noticed people were using it all the time. They are constantly on it,” Punyanunt-Carter said. “It’s very different from the traditional social media because it only records 10 seconds worth of snaps that are very, very quick. So if I have a lot of friends, that’s very time consuming to sit down and watch all their posts on most social media platforms.”

    Finding their motivations

    For the study, Punyanunt-Carter and Delacruz recruited students in the College of Media & Communication through the department’s Sona survey system, where students earn extra credit in certain classes for participating in online surveys. They also administered the survey to those who responded to requests through TechAnnounce, totaling almost 500 students altogether.

    The survey asked students who use Snapchat about their reasons for using the medium, including needs and motivations. It also asked about general social media use motivations, such as personality characteristics and what made them tend to gravitate toward Snapchat as a social medium. It also asked questions to help researchers analyze differences between males and females.

    The brevity of Snapchat posts was a key factor for two big reasons. One, people using Snapchat felt much more trustworthy with how they shared content with others. Two, because the content disappears quickly, users are able to share their lives and don’t feel the pressure to present themselves in any extraordinary form — they can just be their normal, real self.

    “They thought that was a good way to maintain ties with people they were already very close with, interpersonally,” Delacruz said. “It wasn’t so much about whether or not they were being controversial as much as just not putting much thought into what is out there. Maybe it’s just an ugly selfie or whatever, or maybe it’s something that, because the judgement is not there like it is on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, there’s no controversial topics.”

    There’s also an element of familiarity with Snapchat that makes it a preferred medium. Not with the medium itself, but with those on the medium. Delacruz said Snapchat is not the preferred social media platform for starting a new relationship because the posts don’t last long. That is something more for Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

    However, it is an optimal platform for those with whom the user already has a relationship, and therefore don’t have to impress in their post. It is used to maintain relationships and establish trust between users.

    At the same time, Snapchat seems to change faster than other social media platforms, adding things like filters that Facebook and Instagram later added as well.

    “It takes away the pressure of coming up with a great message or great topic, or coming up with a way to present yourself that is socially acceptable,” Delacruz said.

    Analyzing apprehension

    While Snapchat can be a useful tool to help overcome apprehension about communicating on a public forum, it can also swing the other way and become addictive.

    Understanding the motivations for users who are addicted to it is a crucial part of the study. By knowing what motivates Snapchat users, researchers can help others identify potential alternative outlets for communication.

    “Knowing their motivations would definitely help people who advise those with the addiction,” Delacruz said. “It can help them have a better understanding of how to be confident and effective communicators.”

    Punyanunt-Carter would like to expand future research beyond just Snapchat and into other forms of communication.

    “I’m going to look further at interpersonal communication behaviors and how these types of social media platforms affect interpersonal relationships and, perhaps, the sense of identity,” Punyanunt-Carter said. “I want to understand the interpersonal and intrapersonal communication elements on social media. There’s a lot that needs to be done.”


  4. Study suggests you can ‘pick up’ a good or bad mood from your friends

    September 29, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Warwick press release:

    New research suggests that both good and bad moods can be ‘picked up’ from friends, but depression can’t.

    A team led by the University of Warwick has examined whether friends’ moods can affect an individual therefore implying that moods may spread across friendship networks.

    The team analysed data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health which incorporates the moods and friendship networks of US adolescents in schools. Their paper Spreading of components of mood in adolescent social networks has been published in the journal Royal Society Open Science. The team’s findings imply that mood does spread over friendship networks, as do various different symptoms of depression such as helplessness and loss of interest. However they also found that they also found that the effect from lower or worse mood friends was not strong enough to push the other friends into depression.

    Using mathematical modelling they found that having more friends who suffer worse moods is associated with a higher probability of an individual experiencing low moods and a decreased probability of improving. They found the opposite applied to adolescents who had a more positive social circle.

    Public health statistics researcher Rob Eyre led the study. He said: “We investigated whether there is evidence for the individual components of mood (such as appetite, tiredness and sleep) spreading through US adolescent friendship networks while adjusting for confounding by modelling the transition probabilities of changing mood state over time.

    “Evidence suggests mood may spread from person to person via a process known as social contagion.

    “Previous studies have found social support and befriending to be beneficial to mood disorders in adolescents while recent experiments suggest that an individual’s emotional state can be affected by exposure to the emotional expressions of social contacts.

    “Clearly, a greater understanding of how changes in the mood of adolescents are affected by the mood of their friends would be beneficial in informing interventions tackling adolescent depression.”

    The World Health Organisation has estimated that depression affects 350 million people across the world, impacting on individual’s abilities to work and socialise and at worse leading to suicide. This study’s findings emphasise the need to also consider those who exhibit levels of depressive symptoms just below those needed for a diagnosis of actual depression when designing public health interventions.

    The study also helps confirm that there is more to depression than simply low mood. At the individual level, these findings imply that following the evidence-based advice for improving mood, e.g. exercise, sleeping well, and managing stress, can help a teenager’s friends as well as themselves. Whilst for depression, friends do not put an individual at risk of illness so a recommended course of action would be to show them support.

    Their conclusions link in to current policy discussions on the importance of sub-threshold levels of depressive symptoms and could help inform interventions against depression in senior schools

    Co-author, professor Frances Griffiths of Warwick Medical School said: “The results found here can inform public health policy and the design of interventions against depression in adolescents. Sub-threshold levels of depressive symptoms in adolescents is an issue of great current concern as they have been found to be very common, to cause a reduced quality of life and to lead to greater risk of depression later on in life than having no symptoms at all.

    “Understanding that these components of mood can spread socially suggests that while the primary target of social interventions should be to increase friendships because of its benefits in reducing of the risk of depression, a secondary aim could be to reduce spreading of negative mood.”


  5. Study suggests believing you have fewer friends than your peers can contribute to unhappiness

    September 24, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of British Columbia press release:

    Feel like everyone else has more friends than you do? You’re not alone– but merely believing this is true could affect your happiness. A new study from the University of British Columbia, Harvard Business School and Harvard Medical School has found that new university students consistently think their peers have more friends and spend more time socializing than they do. Even when that’s untrue, simply believing so affected students’ wellbeing and sense of belonging.

    “We know the size of your social networks has a significant effect on happiness and wellbeing,” said study lead author Ashley Whillans, assistant professor at Harvard Business School who carried out the research while a PhD candidate at UBC. “But our research shows that even mere beliefs you have about your peers’ social networks has an impact on your happiness.”

    The researchers used data collected from a survey of 1,099 first-year students at UBC. Students were asked how many friends they had made and to estimate how many friends their peers had made since starting school in September.

    The researchers found a greater proportion of students (48 per cent) believed other students had made more close friends than they did. Thirty-one per cent believed the opposite.

    A second survey tracking 389 students across their first year found students who believed their peers had more friends at the beginning of the year reported lower levels of wellbeing.

    However, several months later, the same students who thought their peers had moderately more friends than they did at the beginning of the year reported making more friends compared to students who thought their peers had many more friends.

    “We think students are motivated to make more friends if they think their peers only have one or two more friends than they do,” said Whillans. “But if they feel like the gap is too big, it’s almost as if they give up and feel it isn’t even worth trying.”

    Frances Chen, the study’s senior author and assistant professor in the UBC department of psychology, said the public nature of social activities is likely why students feel their peers are doing better socially.

    “Since social activities, like eating or studying with others, tend to happen in cafes and libraries where they are easily seen, students might overestimate how much their peers are socializing because they don’t see them eating and studying alone,” said Chen.

    The findings could help inform university initiatives to support students’ transition to university life, possibly through an intervention to correct social misperceptions and promote friendship formation, said Chen.

    More research is needed to determine whether the same pattern emerges among new immigrants, or people moving to a new city or starting a new job, said Chen.

    “These feelings and perceptions are probably the strongest when people first enter a new social environment, but most of us probably experience them at some point in our lives,” she said.


  6. When it comes to looking for jobs, it’s not how many you know, but how well you know them

    September 11, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences press release:

    While online networking sites enable individuals to increase their professional connections, to what extent do these ties actually lead to job opportunities? A new study in the INFORMS journal Management Science finds that, despite the ability to significantly increase the number of professional connections and identify more job leads with limited effort on these sites, unless the connection is a strong one, they typically will not lead to job offers.

    The study, “To Be or Not to Be Linked: Online Social Networks and Job Search by Unemployed Workforce,” was conducted by Rajiv Garg of the University of Texas and Rahul Telang of Carnegie Mellon University.

    The authors surveyed 424 LinkedIn users (all of whom were college graduates and either current or recent job seekers) regarding five major job search avenues: Internet sites (e.g., Monster.com), online social networking sites (e.g., LinkedIn), offline friends and family, newspapers and other print media, and recruiting agencies and career centers.

    The study showed that the highest number of job leads were generated by the Internet job boards, followed by LinkedIn. And while on LinkedIn, weaker ties provided marginally more job leads than strong connections, actual interviews and job offers resulted primarily from strong connections. On average, a 10 percent increase in the number of strong connections on social networking sites resulted in a .7 percent increase in the number of job offers, while a 10 percent increase in the number of weaker connections actually caused a 1.3 percent decrease in the number of job offers.

    “We found that strong ties have a significant and positive effect on job interviews,” said Telang. “Weak ties, on the other hand, while they had a greater impact on job leads, have a statistically insignificant impact on job interviews.

    “One possible interpretation is that, for leads to convert into interviews, your connections will most likely be required to conduct follow up on their end, such as make phone calls or provide recommendations,” added Telang. “If the connection is weak, these individuals may be less likely to undertake these efforts.”


  7. Study examines behaviour of older users of Facebook

    September 3, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Penn State press release:

    Older adults are drawn to Facebook so they can check out pictures and updates from family and friends, but may resist using the site because they are worried about who will see their own content, according to a team of researchers.

    In a study of older people’s perception of Facebook, participants listed keeping in touch, monitoring other’s updates and sharing photos as main reasons for using Facebook. However, other seniors listed privacy, as well as the triviality of some posts, as reasons they stay away from the site.

    “The biggest concern is privacy and it’s not about revealing too much, it’s that they assume that too many random people out there can get their hands on their information,” said S. Shyam Sundar, distinguished professor of communications and co-director of the Media Effects Research Laboratory, Penn State. “Control is really what privacy is all about. It’s about the degree to which you feel that you have control over how your information is shared or circulated.”

    The researchers, who report their findings in a forthcoming issue of Telematics and Informatics, said that Facebook developers should focus on privacy settings to tap into the senior market.

    “Clear privacy control tools are needed to promote older adults’ Facebook use,” said Eun Hwa Jung, assistant professor of communications and new media, National University of Singapore. “In particular, we think that privacy settings and alerts need to be highly visible, especially when they [older adults] are sharing information.”

    While older adults are leery about who is viewing their posts, they enjoy using the site to look at pictures and read posts from friends and family, according to the researchers.

    “I am more of a Facebook voyeur, I just look to see what my friends are putting out there,” one participant told the researchers. “I haven’t put anything on there in years. I don’t need to say, ‘I’m having a great lunch!’ and things like that, I don’t understand that kind of communication.”

    Sundar said that, in fact, many participants mentioned the triviality of the conversation that kept them from using Facebook.

    “They believe that people reporting on the mundane and unremarkable things that they did — brushing their teeth, or what they had for lunch — is not worth talking about,” said Sundar. “That’s an issue, especially for this generation.”

    Older users could be a significant resource to help drive the growth of Facebook and other social media sites, Sundar said.

    “The 55-plus folks were slow initially in adopting social media, but now they are one of the largest growing sectors for social media adoption,” he said.

    The researchers suggest that Facebook is helping to serve as a communications bridge between the generations and that young people are prompting their older family members to join the site.

    “In particular, unlike younger people, most older adults were encouraged by younger family members to join Facebook so that they could communicate,” said Jung. “This implies that older adults’ interaction via social networking sites can contribute to effective intergenerational communication.”

    The researchers recruited 46 participants who were between 65 and 95 years old to take part in in-depth interviews. The group included 17 male participants and 29 female participants, all of whom had a college degree. The participants also said they used a computer in their daily lives.

    A total of 20 Facebook users and 26 non-users participated in the study. If participants had a Facebook account, researchers asked them about their experience and their motivations for joining. Participants who did not use Facebook were asked why they did not join.

    Because all of the participants in this study lived in a retirement home, the researchers said that future research should look at the perception and use of Facebook by seniors who live alone.


  8. The importance of influencers on social media

    August 26, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Inderscience Publishers press release:

    Tracking the Twitter updates of a random sample of 300,000 active users over the course of a month reveals that this particular corner of social media and social networking is not quite as equitable and democratic as popular perception might have us believe. Indeed, the research published in the International Journal of Internet Marketing and Advertising reveals that there is a two-step flow of information through which a minority of users accounts for the majority of influence. Opinion leaders follow other opinion leaders and effectively form a community of influencers within the wider user base and the information they disseminate then follows a power-law distribution as everyday users share, retweet and reuse that information.

    Harsha Gangadharbatla of the Department of Advertising, Public Relations and Media Design, College of Media, Communication and Information, at the University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, and Masoud Valafar a software engineer at Twitter, in San Francisco, California, USA, explain that there are numerous theories about how information is disseminated and how “word-of-mouth” works to influence popular opinion and consumer decision making. There have also been many studies into how the media and social media influencing individuals and groups.

    One such theory is known as two-step flow theory. This says that most people form an opinion about a given subject when they are exposed to the views of opinion leaders. Those opinion leaders themselves are influenced by the mass media. This is in contrast to the one-step flow theory, colloquially known as the hypodermic needle, or magic bullet theory, in which people are directly influenced by mass media. Obviously, people are constantly exposed to the mass media at the individual level whether that is television, radio, newspapers or the web. But, the researchers suggest that opinions are actually more likely to be formed second hand in a two-step process. This is especially true of opinions shared on social media but might also apply to the influencers in traditional media — TV pundits, newspaper and magazine columnists, and the like.

    It has been claimed that with the wave of new media in the form of Youtube, Twitter, Instagram, and other so-called Web 2.0 sites democratization of information and influence occurred. Gangadharbatla and Valafar suggest that this may not be the case, at least in the Twitter context. Social media is changing radically the way users and consumers receive information, news, opinion, but as with the old vanguard, there still exists the big influencers. These people or organizations, which might include information hubs and news outlets, pressure groups, and even celebrities, act as the primary source of information and opinion.

    “Our study suggests that the way information propagates on social media is not all that different from that of traditional media. In other words, even on supposedly democratic and gatekeeper-less environments like Twitter and Instagram, information propagates mostly through opinion leaders, and, more so, these opinion leaders are all connected to other opinion leaders on the medium resulting in a virtual community of opinion leaders that yield a strong influence on how and how fast information spreads on social media,” the team reports. In the business context, the team adds that their, “results suggest that targeting this virtual community of opinion leaders will be a more effective use of advertising dollars than reaching the masses on Twitter.”


  9. Social media culture can encourage risky and inappropriate posting behavior

    August 22, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Plymouth press release:

    The use of social media is pervasive among young adults, but not all posted content is appropriate.

    Now a new study by the University of Plymouth investigates why young adults might post content on social media that contains sexual or offensive material.

    Led by Dr Claire White from the University’s School of Psychology, the study suggests that such risky social media posts are not just due to impulsivity, but might be a deliberate strategy to fit in with the wider social media culture that makes people believe ‘it’s the right thing to do’.

    Existing studies show that impulsiveness is predictive of online risk taking behaviours, but this additional research with British and Italian young adults highlighted that high self-monitoring — or adapting behaviour in line with perceived social norms — was equally predictive of posting risky content, which Dr White says could mean young people think it’s the best way to behave.

    To measure risky online self-presentation the research team, which also included PhD student Clara Cutello, Dr Michaela Gummerum and Professor Yaniv Hanoch from the School of Psychology, designed a risk exposure scale relating to potentially inappropriate images or texts, such as drug and alcohol use, sexual content, personal information, and offensive material. They also evaluated people’s level of self-monitoring and impulsivity.

    Dr White said: “It’s counterintuitive really because it would be easy to assume that a high self-monitor would question their actions and adapt accordingly.

    “But the results show that high self-monitors are just as likely to post risky content as those in the study who are more impulsive, which suggests they think it’s not only OK to be risky — and potentially offensive — but that it’s actually the right thing to do.

    “The only notable difference between the nationalities was that British students were more likely to post comments and images related to their alcohol and drug use on social media, whereas their Italian counterparts were more likely to post offensive content and personal information.

    “This difference shows that culture as a whole seems to play a part in what type of content is shared.

    “But the fact that the behaviours predicting risky online choices are the same for both nationalities suggests there’s a wider social media culture that encourages this type of risk-taking behaviour.”


  10. Study suggests link between person’s attachment style and how they manage friendship networks

    August 14, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Kansas press release:

    A new investigation appearing this week in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin suggests a strong association between a person’s attachment style — how avoidant or anxious people are in their close relationships — and their perception and management of social networks like Facebook.

    “Attachment style, thought to play a central role in romantic and parent-child relationships, was found to also play a role in people’s broader social network of friends,” said Omri Gillath, professor of psychology at the University of Kansas, who headed up the research. “The findings show you can predict the structure of people’s social networks and the way people manage their networks from their personality.”

    Gillath and co-authors Gery Karantzas of Deakin University in Australia and Emre Selcuk of Middle East Technical University in Turkey focused on a specific personality trait — attachment style — which varies from one person to another.

    “Attachment theory describes how people are creating bonds in their lives,” said Gillath, who studies close relationships and their underlying mechanisms. “Attachment style is basically a relationship style. It’s the way we think, feel and behave in our close relationships. It’s known to affect relationship processes and emotion regulation. People can be secure or insecure — and if they are insecure, anxious or avoidant in their attachment style.”

    Gillath said those with an insecure attachment style have issues relating to trust and closeness.

    “If you’re high on attachment avoidance, you’re trying to avoid intimacy and tend not to trust others — downplaying the importance of emotions and relationships,” he said. “Conversely, if you’re high on attachment anxiety, you’re very concerned with rejection and abandonment and tend to be overwhelmed by emotions. Being low on both — securely attached — associates with long, stable, satisfying relationships.”

    The new paper describes four separate studies that lend insight into the interplay between attachment style and how people manage and perceive friendship networks. Participants in the studies first were benchmarked for attachment style, then evaluated for the “tie strength” and “multiplexity” of their friendship networks.

    “‘Tie strength’ is how close the ties in your networks are — we asked people to report this in different ways,” Gillath said. “It could be how intimate they feel with people in their network or how frequently they interact with these people. ‘Multiplexity’ is how many roles are filled or functions are served by network members. For example, you can be my co-worker, play basketball with me, or we can engage in political activism together. Further, network members can fulfill roles such as instrumental or emotional help, or informational function. The more roles fulfilled and functions served, the higher the multiplexity. The higher the tie strength and multiplexity, the more benefits one gains from her network.”

    Gillath said the study suggests attachment insecurity associates with fewer benefits gained from one’s social network. “We found people high on attachment anxiety or avoidance had weaker tie strength,” he said. “Further, people high on avoidance reported lower multiplexity.”

    The researchers also looked at how people manage their networks, including how they initiate, maintain and dissolve ties. “For some people, it’s very easy to, for example, start new relationships, and maintain — or stay in touch — with existing ties,” Gillath said. “For others, it might be much harder, or less likely to happen.”

    The KU researcher and his colleagues found attachment style also predicted these tendencies. For example, people high on attachment avoidance were less likely to initiate and maintain, and more likely to dissolve network ties.

    “Surprisingly, people high on anxiety were expected to be less likely to dissolve ties — they’re often concerned about being rejected or abandoned and want to merge with their relationship partners, which made us think they would be less likely to dissolve ties,” Gillath said. “However, they were found to report higher tendency for dissolution than nonanxious people.”

    Gillath said due to their high levels of concern and desire to merge with others, anxiously attached people may end up pushing members away.

    “Network members may feel smothered and dissolve the ties,” he said.

    In other words, anxious people reported that other network members are dissolving ties with them, whereas avoidants reported on dissolving ties with others. Either way, insecure people were higher on tie dissolution than secure people.

    “To obtain these data, we asked participants to report on the number of their friends, how close they were with friends and the roles their friends fulfilled,” Gillath said. “This is something you can’t just look at one’s Facebook page and figure out.

    Another interesting finding has to do with the size of a person’s social network.

    “We found the more friends you have in your network, the lower your tie strength and multiplexity — size dilutes the quality of your networks ties,” Gillath said.

    In another aspect of the study, the authors used “primes” to boost participants’ attachment security, finding it made people more likely to initiate social ties and less likely to dissolve them (for the latter, especially among those high on avoidance or anxiety). Security priming also improved people’s maintenance of relationships on social networks, especially among people high on attachment anxiety or low on attachment avoidance.

    “If you want to establish causality you have to engage in experimentation, and priming is the way we did it,” Gillath said. “There are different ways to enhance attachment security. You can ask participants to think about a relationship that made them feel secure or an event that made them feel loved or supported. You can also expose them to specific words like ‘love’ or ‘hug.’ Once we do that, we want to see if that changes how people think about network management and, in turn, how that affects network characteristics. We found that priming indeed influenced management in that it made people more likely to initiate and less likely to dissolve ties. This, in turn, leads to higher tie strength and multiplexity.”

    The researchers said these findings suggest that attachment security leads to better management and more beneficial outcomes people could gain from their social networks.

    “There are many things that can be bad about social networks, if you tend to search for hours on your exes and do Facebook lurking and are not involved in relational process — that can lead to jealousy and all kinds of negative emotions,” he said. “However, if you’re using your social networks for fulfilling or serving your attachment needs — such as a secure base or safe haven — that’s likely to result in positive outcomes.”