Notable breakthrough: What makes a Facebook 'friend'?

McDaniel professor explores how open users are to strangers

  • Robert Lemieux
Robert Lemieux (Courtesy McDaniel College,…)
September 07, 2012|By Scott Dance, The Baltimore Sun

Description: How much does a Facebook "friendship" really mean? One researcher explored it by creating a fake account on the social networking website with only a limited amount of personal information that could make it appear the person is a college student. The question was, would study participants accept the friendship?

Researchers: Robert Lemieux, a McDaniel College professor whose previous research and teaching have touched on romantic relationships, health campaigns and the culture of organizations.

Stage of research: The results, published in the August issue of research journal Psychological Reports, found that for many Facebook users, there is a low bar when it comes to accepting friends. Nearly three-fourths of the study participants approved a friend request from the fictitious classmate.

Implications: The research shows that some social norms on Facebook may differ from those of normal face-to-face interactions. "In essence," Lemieux wrote, "members accepted the friendship of someone they didn't know, and considering the inequity of information exchanged, the acceptance is counter to norms of reciprocity."

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