Social relationships in blog webrings
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A blog webring is a self-organized online network that bloggers can join based on its thematic description. Drawing upon the theory of homophily in interpersonal communication, this paper examines webring themes and explores how they may be related to the salient characteristics in human identity to which people pay more attention in online communication. Research results suggest that blogs in a webring with a mixed theme or a theme based on acquired status are associated with a higher level of conversationality, with more embedded webring-bounded hyperlinks and more member comments. Bloggers from webrings of these two types of themes reportedly have a closer social relationship with other members. They are also more positive about the likelihood of getting social support from within their webrings. In general, people are not constrained by the limited interactivity offered by blogs; many of them employ not only other online, but also offline means of communication for interactions. As webring members, people believe that much more social support is available than they originally anticipated, and the specific types of social support that are perceived to be available are not determined by how easily they may be delivered online. This study overall supports the view that meaningful social relationships are developed and maintained on the Internet, which is essentially an extension of people’s daily lives. It also underscores the necessity that contextual specificity be privileged in future research on people’s online communication.