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Can friendships be formed over the internet? A qualitative investigation of young people’s experiences of online social interactions

Halsall, Nathan (2014) Can friendships be formed over the internet? A qualitative investigation of young people’s experiences of online social interactions. Manchester Metropolitan University. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

As technology evolves, the internet is increasingly becoming a frequently used medium through which friendships are formed (Amichai-Hamburger et al, 2013), especially in niche communities (McKenna et al, 2002). The research aimed to discover how the internet has shaped the social processes of young people and address the question of whether online contact can lead to ‘true’ friendships. Five males aged eighteen to twenty-two participated in a semi-structured interview conducted over Skype, discussing their personal experiences of online friendships. The transcribed data was analysed with interpretative phenomenological analysis (Smith and Osborn, 2012) and secondary coding produced the four subordinate themes of initial friendship formation, ‘community spirit’ and communal activities, social support and interactions between online and offline. Findings suggest that the internet is an acceptable source of social compensation for introverts and that true close friendships can be developed through this medium.

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