Grooming, gossip, facebook and myspace: What can we learn about these sites from those who won't assimilate?

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367 Scopus citations


This paper explores the rapid adoption of online social network sites (also known as social networking sites) (SNSs) by students on a US college campus. Using quantitative (n = 713) and qualitative (n = 51) data based on a diverse sample of college students, demographic and other characteristics of SNS users and non-users are compared. Starting with the theoretical frameworks of Robin Dunbar and Erving Goffman, this paper situates SNS activity under two rubrics: (1) social grooming; and (2) presentation of the self. This study locates these sites within the emergence of social computing and makes a conceptual distinction between the expressive Internet, the Internet of social interactions, and the instrumental Internet, the Internet of airline tickets and weather forecasts. This paper compares and contrasts the user and non-user populations in terms of expressive and instrumental Internet use, social ties and attitudes toward social-grooming, privacy and efficiency. Two clusters are found to influence SNS adoption: attitudes towards social grooming and privacy concerns. It is especially found that non-users display an attitude towards social grooming (gossip, small-talk and generalized, non-functional people-curiosity) that ranges from incredulous to hostile. Contrary to expectations, non-users do not report a smaller number of close friends compared with users, but they do keep in touch with fewer people. Users of SNS are also heavier users of the expressive Internet, while there is no difference in use of instrumental Internet. Gender also emerges as an important predictor. These findings highlight the need to differentiate between the different modalities of Internet use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)544-564
Number of pages21
JournalInformation Communication and Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 2008
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Communication
  • Library and Information Sciences


  • Dunbar
  • Facebook
  • Goffman
  • Internet
  • Myspace
  • Presentation of self
  • Social grooming
  • Social network sites


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