Lauren Wagner – Facebook Support Network

This visualization represents the Facebook network for a single participant in my study, which explored the effects of online and offline social support networks on psychological wellbeing. The research presupposed that a residential move uproots existing social ties that serve to protect individuals from the effects of stress and depression. Consequently, the study surveyed students who recently relocated to Oxford in order to identify whether those who developed more ties in the new location following a residential move had higher overall wellbeing when preexisting ties were geographically distant. In addition, I hypothesized that the number of perceived social ties, or merely the knowledge that support is available to provide resources, would be positively correlated with wellbeing independent of the objective number of ties. After importing Facebook networks using NodeXL subjects categorized the different clusters. This Facebook network has highly disconnected clusters. Compared to the undergraduate cluster, the Oxford cluster is larger and denser, comprising 30% of total Facebook ties, indicating that the subject may have a solid structure in place to foster a supportive local social network. This data is interesting when coupled with the online survey results measuring psychological wellbeing, which demonstrated high levels of perceived social support and moderate to strong levels of depressive affect. Although conclusive results could not be drawn from this study, it is interesting to posit the effects of the location and structure of social ties on wellness. My future research will provide a more in-depth analysis of the role of perceived social support on individuals and the mechanisms that foster these types of relationships.

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