Abstract: Mutual friends’ social support and self-disclosure in face-to-face and instant messenger communication

In the present study, we investigated long-term effects of self-disclosure on social support in face-to-face and instant messenger (IM) communication between mutual friends. Using a representative sample of 583 German IM users, we explored whether self-disclosure and positive experiences with regard to social support would dynamically interact in the form of a reinforcing spiral across three measurement occasions. If mutual friends self-disclose today, will they receive more social support 6 months later? In turn, will this affect their willingness to self-disclose another 6 months later? We further analyzed spill-over effects from face-to-face to IM communication and vice versa. We found that self-disclosure predicted social support and vice versa in IM communication, but not in face-to-face communication. In light of these results, the impact of IM communication on how individuals maneuver friendships through the interplay between self-disclosure and social support are discussed.

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