Making time online: exploring social media as a tool for family connection

PhD Thesis


Abel, Susan. 2021. Making time online: exploring social media as a tool for family connection. PhD Thesis Doctor of Philosophy. University of Southern Queensland. https://doi.org/10.26192/q713w
Title

Making time online: exploring social media as a tool for family connection

TypePhD Thesis
Authors
AuthorAbel, Susan
Supervisor
1. FirstProf Charlotte Brownlow
2. SecondA/Pr Tanya Machin
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Qualification NameDoctor of Philosophy
Number of Pages203
Year2021
PublisherUniversity of Southern Queensland
Place of PublicationAustralia
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.26192/q713w
Abstract

Strong family bonds can lead to improved wellbeing and life satisfaction for individuals. Globally, people have assimilated social media technology into their daily lives. Complementary to offline spaces, social media platforms provide spaces where people engage in family life. This body of research explores the use of social media for family relational maintenance across the lifespan. Three papers submitted to peer-reviewed journals form part of this thesis by publication. The first paper was a mixed-methods systematic review of quantitative, qualitative, and mixed-method empirical studies exploring geographically distributed families' engagement with family practices over social media. By employing a convergent data-based framework, the results of 51 studies were synthesised into four domains: (1) doing family in a social media environment, (2) performing family through stories and rituals, (3) the nature of online communication practices, and (4) privacy, conflict, and the quality of family relationships. Most of the reviewed studies were in a transnational context, so the second qualitative paper aimed to identify Australians' psychosocial and transactional social media family practices. The data from semi-structured interviews with 28 Australians were inductively analysed to identify two themes. The first related to Australian perceptions of time scarcity and how this is implicated in their choice of communication modes: 'individuals perceive time is scarce, so they work to maintain relationships efficiently.' The second theme explored the tension between people's desire to see authentic self-disclosing behaviour and the need to comply with social media's positive communication norms: 'to share or not to share on Facebook, a twenty-first century conundrum.' As a response to the emergence of COVID-19 and related lockdowns during the research period, the final paper used qualitative case study methodology to explore the impact of these measures on Australian social media practices for connecting with family and friends. Qualitative Case study methodology using a critical realist perspective was used to gain insight into three Australian's social media practices before and during stay-at-home measures. Longitudinal data from two in-depth individual interviews using photo-elicitation was thematically analysed to develop three themes. The first two themes identified temporal separation as a factor influencing mode use: 'indefinite separation motivates a pivot to audio-visual' and 'messaging reduces friction on relationship maintenance'. The third theme explored how shared interests can be the foundation of online communication, which in turn can foster closer bonds: 'shared interests are the key to sustainable interaction.' Three key findings across these papers include: a) understandings of social media as a tool used to strengthen bonds, shape family identity, and accomplish shared tasks; b) insights into the way late adults engage in family social media interactions; and c) the influence of time scarcity on Australians' behaviour in various social media modes. Two practical implications are 1) interventions to promote audio-visual based interactions between grandparents and their young grandchildren to establish and sustain bonds when they are separated by geographical distance, and 2) interventions to encourage parents to establish vicarious interests online with their children for sustainable interactions, which in turn can strengthen bonds.

KeywordsFacebook, social media, family relationships, shared interest, ambient copresence, thematic analysis
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020520199. Applied and developmental psychology not elsewhere classified
520505. Social psychology
Public Notes

File reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher/author.

Byline AffiliationsSchool of Psychology and Counselling
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