Friends in all the right places: Social resources and geography in the age of social network sites

Lauren Sessions Goulet, University of Pennsylvania


Social network sites (SNSs) such as Facebook connect users to social ties living both near and far. As a result, use of these sites may mitigate the threat geographic distance poses to relationships, and to the social support that these relationships provide. This dissertation asks, in the age of social network sites, are dispersed social networks equally as supportive as local ones? Findings suggest a persistent effect of geographic distance on the maintenance of social ties and on "social resource" levels - aid that ties can provide. While SNS use is linked to greater levels of nonmaterial resources, those that may be exchanged by people living far away from one another (e.g. advice), use is not linked to material resources that must be exchanged in-person (e.g. emergency aid). A theory of SNSs' social resource globalizing benefits supported by analyses of survey, interview, and SNS server log data is presented. SNSs help users to maintain geographically diverse and dispersed social resources, functioning as resource banks from which users may withdraw social support. These sites connect users to resources that support geographic movement and a greater awareness of non-local issues and perspectives (i.e., promote "global fluency"). Though users believe their friend networks to be more local and less geographically diverse than they actually are, certain SNS activities help users to realize the resource "potential" in their friend network by increasing the visibility and accessibility of the resources that SNS friends can provide.^

Subject Area

Geography|Speech Communication|Web Studies|Sociology, Social Structure and Development

Recommended Citation

Goulet, Lauren Sessions, "Friends in all the right places: Social resources and geography in the age of social network sites" (2012). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3551687.