Document Type

Honors Project


Internet technology may have increased our opportunities for interpersonal interaction and social networking, but has it done so by replacing or supplementing our offline networks? What is the relationship between the social worlds of Internet users, and their social use of Internet technology? Building off a body of Internet research, I tackle these questions by examining YouTube, a web-based video platform that relies on user-generated content and integrates aspects of social media. I conducted a survey of a random sample of university students at a liberal arts college and recruited a sub-sample of survey participants for followup in-depth interviews to understand how variations in the use of YouTube associate with other forms of social interaction. My findings show that the website holds distinct utility for varieties of users, reflecting diverse visions of what makes an ideal interaction community. Quantitative analysis found that users who were less social in the off-line world were more likely to interact in the YouTube environment. The interview data showed that although many of the other users are unlikely to engage in social interaction on YouTube itself, the site is an important tool in enhancing their relationships with online and offline acquaintances. Together these findings indicate a new potential for Internet technologies to facilitate social connection, both as tools and environments for social interaction.


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