HARMONY AND TENSION ON SOCIAL NETWORK SITES: Side-effects of increasing online interconnectivity

Jens F. Binder, Andrew Howes, Daniel Smart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


The need to maintain harmony among one's social contacts is proposed in this paper to impose constraints on the interconnectivity between users of social network sites (SNS). A particular focus is on the connectivity between different social spheres. It is hypothesized that the type and number of social spheres and technological features of SNS interact such that increased levels of social tension result. These ideas are supported by the findings from a survey study among Facebook users. Social diversity of the Facebook network predicted online tension as did the number of family members on Facebook, in contrast to work and social contacts. Furthermore, evidence was found to support the idea that tension might impose an upper limit on network size. Follow-up interview data also showed that online tension was predominantly about unwanted connectivity between the spheres. All the technological features that users reported as problematic focused on the easy access to and broadcast of text and pictures. Findings are discussed in light of unintended, negative side-effects of SNS and social media in general.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1279-1297
Number of pages19
JournalInformation Communication and Society
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was jointly funded by the EPSRC, UK and ESRC, UK.

Copyright 2012 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • balance theory
  • network diversity
  • network maintenance
  • social circle
  • social network sites
  • social sphere

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Library and Information Sciences


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