Publication date: April 2020
Source: Computers in Human Behavior, Volume 105
Author(s): Natalie Pennington
While significant research exists highlighting the role of impression management and disclosure online as it relates to the development of relationships, more work is needed to explore how relational transgressions can affect the maintenance of various ties within one’s social network. Drawing on the evaluation and forecasting components of social penetration theory (SPT), this research seeks to extend SPT to online communication by investigating how relationships are potentially dissolved through social networking sites (SNSs). This study used a survey and multi-level modeling (N = 312, cases = 3062) to examine reasons why a user may terminate or hide a relationship on their social network. Results suggest that in weighing the rewards and costs of a relationship most users heavily favor taking no action in the face of an infraction online (e.g., oversharing) rather than unfriending or unfollowing. However, strength of tie, how regularly someone uses SNSs, the size of the social network, and site used each influenced the decision to unfriend or hide.