Contrary to conventional wisdom, a person’s willingness to communicate offline is similar to their willingness to communicate on the internet. Those who are not willing to communicate offline also tend to have the same unwillingness to communicate online.
This conclusion comes from a study published in 2008 by the Journal of Media Psychology. The study was conducted by Pavica Sheldon of Louisiana State University.
Pavica Sheldon administered questionnaires to 172 college students to assess their willingness to communicate and Facebook use. The questionnaires examined a number of different variables related to Facebook use, including (but not limited to) entertainment value, relationship maintenance, social interaction, duration of use, frequency of use, and overall satisfaction with Facebook.
Students reported spending an average of 47 minutes a day on Facebook and most had between 200 to 350 Facebook friends.
The two most common motives for using Facebook were passing time and maintaining relationships.
There is a common conception that those who are unwilling to communicate offline often use social networking sites like Facebook as an alternative social outlet.
Although this may be true for some individuals, the results of this study found that the individuals with the most friends on Facebook were those who were also sociable offline. People who were rated high on measures of willingness to communicate were also more likely to initiate new relationships online, while those rated lower tended to initiate far less relationships online.
Although this study is limited by the fact that it only surveyed college students, the results are important and for some, quite surprising. It suggests that social behavior offline, at least in terms of willingness to communicate, is similar to social behavior online. Contrary to the opinion that socializing online is for introverts, those who are most social online tend to be those who are most social offline.
Sheldon, P. (2008). The relationship between unwillingness-to-communicate and student’s facebook use. Journal of Media Psychology, Vol 20, No 2: 67-75.