Predictors and Consequences of Differentiated Social Network Site Usage

Authors: Eszter Hargittai and Yu-li Patrick Hsieh

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Citation: Hargittai, E. & Hsieh, Y.P.(2010). Predictors and Consequences of Differentiated Social Network Site Usage. Information, Communication and Society. 13(4):515-536.


Applying a typology of social network site (SNS) usage that takes into consideration the intensity with which people use such sites, this piece offers an empirical investigation of how users' social practices on SNSs differ and whether different levels of engagement have consequences for academic performance. We rely on a unique survey-based data set representing a diverse group of young adults to answer these questions. We find, not surprisingly, that the more intense users of such sites engage in more social activities on SNSs than those who spend less time on them and only use one such site. This finding holds both in the realm of stronger-tie activities and weaker-tie activities, that is social practices involving one's close friends as well as less established ties. Our analyses suggest gender difference in level of engagement with SNS social practices. Women pursue more stronger-tie activities than men, such as interacting with existing friends. In contrast, women engage in fewer weaker-tie activities than men, such as developing new relationships on such sites. However, neither SNS usage intensity nor social practices performed on these sites are systematically related to students' academic performance, findings that challenge some previous claims to the contrary.


  • Introduction
  • Implications of SNS Usage
  • Typology of SNS uses
  • Data and methods
  • Variation in SNS usage
  • Explaining differences in users' social practices on SNSs
  • Relationship between SNS use intensity and academic performance
  • Conclusion


The authors are grateful to Jeremy Freese for helpful input at various stages of the project. They appreciate the generous support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation that made this project possible. They are indebted to Waleeta Canon and the group of undergraduate and graduate research assistants in the Web Use Project lab during the 2006-07 academic year for data collection and data entry. The authors also thank the support of Ann Feldman, Tom Moss and Mary Case at the University of Illinois, Chicago.

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