Public dialogs in social network sites: What is their purpose?



Social network sites (SNSs) such as MySpace and Facebook are important venues for interpersonal communication, especially among youth. One way in which members can communicate is to write public messages on each other's profile, but how is this unusual means of communication used in practice? An analysis of 2,293 public comment exchanges extracted from large samples of U.S. and U.K. MySpace members found them to be relatively rapid, but rarely used for prolonged exchanges. They seem to fulfill two purposes: making initial contact and keeping in touch occasionally such as at birthdays and other important dates. Although about half of the dialogs seem to exchange some gossip, the dialogs seem typically too short to play the role of gossip-based “social grooming” for typical pairs of Friends, but close Friends may still communicate extensively in SNSs with other methods.