Writing for Friends and Family: The Interpersonal Nature of Blogs

March 31, 2008

Some bloggers publicly broadcast highly personal information across the Internet -- information usually found in personal diaries or private journals. Why do they do this?

An exploratory study published in the January issue of the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication says they are likely to be self-disclosing extraverts who use personal blogs to strengthen and enhance their already large networks of strong social ties.

The study, "Writing for Friends and Family: The Interpersonal Nature of Blogs," was conducted by Michael Stefanone, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Communication in the University at Buffalo's College of Arts and Sciences, and Chyng-Yang Jang, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Texas, Arlington.

"Previous researchers have questioned why people are driven to post content traditionally limited to such personal mediums of expression," Stefanone says, "and they have found evidence that the intention was to maintain close relationships."

Many questions remained, however, as to who is most likely to appropriate the equivalent of a 'broadcasting' model of content delivery for this use and how their personality traits relate to this decision.

Stefanone says the study results support the growing body of literature that suggests that computer-mediated communication tools facilitate and enhance relationships rather than promote social isolation.

"People have a long history of appropriating technology to fulfill specific goals," he says, "and in the case of Internet technologies, those goals have typically been interpersonal in nature. We can see this in the ubiquity of email and the popularity of social-networking sites.

"Research indicates that a hallmark feature of blogs is content analogous to traditional diaries and journals," he says.

Stefanone and Jang set out to explore the role of individual personality traits in relation to the size and closeness of social network characteristics and the extent to which these are related to the adoption of such blogs for interpersonal goals.

They generated a random sample of 1,000 personal-style blogs that ultimately produced a study sample of 154 personal bloggers from 32 countries.

The participants completed surveys that explored how the personality traits of extraversion and self-disclosure affect the size of an individuals' network of strong social ties and how that network size influences the bloggers' use of their blogs to support it.

Extraverts, the researchers note, are comfortable meeting and being around new people and have an enhanced opportunity to develop relationships with them. None of the characteristics of extraversion, however, suggests that it systematically promotes relationship intensity or depth. Self-disclosure, on the other hand, through a reciprocity effect, encourages a mutual self-disclosure that helps relationships develop and grow in intimacy.

So extraversion alone promotes large -- but not necessarily intimate or strong-tie -- social networks, and self-disclosure alone promotes intimate or strong-tie relationships, but not necessarily a large number of them.

The study found that bloggers who exhibited both traits, tended to have large STNs and to use blogs as an alternative communication channel to support these ties. They use them, in fact, in a way similar to email.

"Perhaps they do this because blogs pose a cheap and convenient way for extroverted self-disclosers to keep in touch with a lot of people in their social networks," Stefanone says, noting that this is something that would have a high value for such individuals.

"Unlike other Internet tools," he points out, "personal journal blogs permit bloggers to present their intimate thoughts to those they trust, although in a relatively public forum, and get feedback about those issues and feelings through public postings and comments."

The researchers found that neither age, nor gender, nor education influence strong-tie network size, blog content or the use of blogs as a relationship maintenance tool

Most of the bloggers in the study did not set access restrictions to their blogs, so postings were available to all readers, Stefanone says.

He says that when it came to personal issues, such as family and romance issues, and regardless of the size of their general audience, the bloggers addressed most postings to members of their STNs.

"This indicates that members of close-tie networks offer important psychological or emotional support not available from casual acquaintances and romantic relationships," Stefanone says.

Source: University at Buffalo

Explore further: How earning the right to an opinion on the Internet makes it that much more valuable

Related Stories

Google turns a page with Alphabet (Update)

August 11, 2015

Google's reshaping under newly formed parent Alphabet gives the tech giant more ability to focus on its core business, while offering startup-like flexibility to long shot, trailblazing projects.

Wearable fitness devices carry security risks

August 5, 2015

During a 2014 competition among Netflix employees to create potential new features, one group hacked into a Fitbit and created a "Sleep Bookmark" function, automatically pausing Netflix as the wearer started to fall asleep.

Recommended for you

From a very old skeleton, new insights on ancient migrations

October 9, 2015

Three years ago, a group of researchers found a cave in Ethiopia with a secret: it held the 4,500-year-old remains of a man, with his head resting on a rock pillow, his hands folded under his face, and stone flake tools surrounding ...

Mexican site yields new details of sacrifice of Spaniards

October 9, 2015

It was one of the worst defeats in one of history's most dramatic conquests: Only a year after Hernan Cortes landed in Mexico, hundreds of people in a Spanish-led convey were captured, sacrificed and apparently eaten.

Who you gonna trust? How power affects our faith in others

October 6, 2015

One of the ongoing themes of the current presidential campaign is that Americans are becoming increasingly distrustful of those who walk the corridors of power – Exhibit A being the Republican presidential primary, in which ...

Ancient genome from Africa sequenced for the first time

October 8, 2015

The first ancient human genome from Africa to be sequenced has revealed that a wave of migration back into Africa from Western Eurasia around 3,000 years ago was up to twice as significant as previously thought, and affected ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.