Dr. Vitak!

I am very bad with updates, as you can see, but here’s a big one. On December 14, 2012, I successfully defended my dissertation! Woo! I’m finishing final edits this week and will submit to the grad school shortly.

I also just wrapped up my first semester as an assistant professor at the iSchool at Maryland; recently published my first solo-authored article in JOBEM; and have three articles coming in CSCW this February. Busy times I tell you!

Here’s the abstract for my dissertation:

Arguably, the technical features of social network sites simplify the process of maintaining and interacting with hundreds of social connections. At the same time, however, these sites’ affordances—namely the visibility and persistence of content and the articulation of those connections (e.g., through a “Friend List”)—raise new questions about how individuals engage in relationship maintenance with various types of ties. This dissertation seeks to expand our understanding of relationship maintenance processes to account for the unique affordances of these communication technologies through a survey of adult Facebook users (N=407). First, through exploratory factor analysis, it establishes a set of Facebook relationship maintenance strategies that reflect existing theory and measures while accounting for the affordances of social media. Next, through nested OLS regressions, it tests whether engagement in these strategies with a randomly selected Facebook Friend predicts three relational outcomes: relational closeness, relational satisfaction, and access to social provisions. Third, it tests whether engagement in these strategies is associated with perceptions that using Facebook positively impacts their perceived relational closeness and relational stability with that Friend, while controlling for existing levels of relational closeness. Findings indicate main effects for all four relationship maintenance strategies on perceptions of Facebook’s impact on relational closeness and relational stability, as well as interaction effects between existing relational closeness and multiple strategies in predicting these two outcomes, such that weaker ties who engage in these strategies view the site as having a more positive impact on their relationship than stronger ties. Subsequent analyses identify additional differences between those who primarily rely on Facebook to communicate with that Friend and those who do not, as well as those who are geographically distant from each other versus those who live nearby, while controlling for existing relational closeness. This study contributes to the extant literature on computer-mediated communication and relationship maintenance by extending our understanding of how individuals interact through mediated channels and the role that newer technologies like social network sites play in managing a wide range of relationships, especially weaker ties who are more likely to rely on social media to keep their relationship in existence.

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