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Redefining tie strength – how social media (can) help us to get non-redundant useful information and emotional support

Junior Research groupSocial Media
Duration01/2013 - 12/2017
FundingERC Starting Grant
Project description

Social media help us to stay in touch with many people – no matter whether they are close friends (so-called strong ties), acquaintances (weak ties) or people we barely know. Research on social capital showed that strong ties provide us with emotional support whereas weak ties provide us with useful non-redundant information. Do social media change how and from whom we receive informational and emotional support?

That are the central questions of the ERC starting grant project ReDefTie.

The project consists of three subprojects. In subproject 1, the causal relationships between social media use and indicators of emotional and informational social support are studied in a longitudinal study with a representative sample of Dutch online users. Two PhD projects examine in depth the underlying cognitive and affective processes. Subproject 2 studies how people can form a correct knowledge representation of their social network (who knows what?) from the vast amount of ephemeral and often superficial status updates and tweets. The main focus of this subproject is on automatic processes. Subproject 3 examines whether social media only provide people with the illusion of connection or whether and under which circumstances they can provide actual emotional support.

First results of the longitudinal study show that mainly users of business network such as LinkedIn report informational benefits in professional settings. The experiments indicate that the regular skimming of updates contributes to the development of so-called ambient awareness, knowledge about the network members. These results have implications for organizational knowledge management.


Utz, S. (2016). Wie social media den beruflichen Wissensaustausch fördern können. Themenheft: Psychologie und Wissensmedien. Psychologische Rundschau, 67, 118-124. full text

Lin, R., Levordashka, A., & Utz, S. 2016). Ambient intimacy on Twitter. Cyberpsychology Journal of Psychosocial Research in Cyberspace, 10(1), article 6. doi: [ http://dx.doi.org/10.5817/CP2016-1-6 ]10.5817/CP2016-1-6. full text

Levordashka, A., & Utz, S. (2016). Ambient awareness: From random noise to digital closeness in online social networks. Computers in Human Behavior, 60, 147–154. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2016.02.037.

Lin, R. & Utz, S. (2015). The emotional responses of browsing facebook: happiness, envy, and the role of tie strength. Computers in Human Behavior, 52, 29-38. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2015.04.064. full text

Utz, S. (in press). Is LinkedIn making you more successful? The informational benefits derived from public social media. New Media & Society. doi: 10.1177/1461444815604143. full text


Project Website: ReDefTie

Data Archive: https://www.redeftiedata.eu/


Prof. Dr. Sonja Utz Prof. Dr. Sonja Utz
Tel.: +49 7071 979-308