Birds of a Feather Flock Together Reloaded: Homophily in the Context of Web 2.0 in Online Social Networking Sites such as Facebook

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Fischer, Mia
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Facebook recently registered its 400 millionth user. Positioning itself as a leader of interactive, participant-based online Web 2.0 media, Facebook promises to change how we communicate in part by digitally mapping and linking peripatetic people across space and time. As socio-demographic boundaries are torn down, it may seem as if Facebook runs counter to decades of sociological research on what is known as "homophily" the tendency of individuals to associate only with like-minded people---similarity breeds connection. The present study investigated how the concept of homophily, taken out of its traditional interpersonal, face-to-face context, is evident in relationships on Facebook. A triangulation of both qualitative and quantitative methods in form of an online survey (N = 447) as well as a content analysis of Facebook profiles (N = 159) was employed among Facebook users. The major findings of this study suggest that Facebook users are aware of Web 2.0's connective tools to cross socio-demographic barriers. However, looking in particular at the demographics of Facebook users and those of their added friends, the evidence found of real and perceived homophily dimensions across the different methodologies employed in this study, as well as users' tendency to exclusively foster, maintain, and revive pre-existing "offline" relationships, counters the positivistic belief in interactive media disseminating user generated content with a participatory potential to enrich democracy in our society. Facebook rather continues to further these trodden paths of segregating factors---birds of a feather flocking together---by predominantly maintaining and promoting homophilious relations among its members.
Facebook (Electronic resource); Social networks -- Research.