Zhang, X., Gao, Q., Khoo, C., & Wu, A. (2013). Categories of friends on social networking sites: An exploratory study. In The 5th International Conference on Asia-Pacific Library and Information Education and Practice (A-LIEP 2013): Proceedings (pp. 244-259). Khon Kaen City, Thailand: University of Khon Kaen, Faculty of Humanties and Social Sciences. [PDF]


The widespread use of social networking sites has transformed the ways people make, communicate with and manage their friends. This study seeks to find out students’ perception of the types of friends they have on their social networking sites (SNS), such as Facebook and Twitter, in comparison to offline friends, and the quality of these friendships.

A questionnaire survey was administered to 104 graduate students in the Division of Information Studies at the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. It was found that the main categories of friends on SNS are school friends, work-related friends, friends sharing same interest/activity and family.

The study also found differences by age, gender and nationality. Female respondents were more likely to list school friends, work-related friends and family friends than male respondents, who were more likely to list friends with the same interest/activity. Local Singaporeans were more likely to list friends sharing same interest/activity, whereas international students from India and China were more likely to list family friends, close friends, mutual friends and school friends. Females, younger people and international students tended to have a bigger variety of friends.

Generally, respondents rated their offline friends higher in quality compared to their online friends. The results also show that friendships of longer duration are viewed as higher quality, for both online and offline friends. A follow-up study will examine the kinds of information exchanged between different types of friends.