The Benefits of Facebook "Friends": Social capital and college students' use of online social network sites

Nicole B. Ellison
Charles Steinfield
Cliff Lampe


This study examines the relationship between use of Facebook, a popular online social network site, and the formation and maintenance of social capital. In addition to assessing bonding and bridging social capital, we explore a dimension of social capital that assesses one’s ability to stay connected with members of a previously inhabited community, which we call maintained social capital. Regression analyses conducted on results from a survey of undergraduate students (N = 286) suggest a strong association between use of Facebook and the three types of social capital, with the strongest relationship being to bridging social capital. In addition, Facebook usage was found to interact with measures of psychological well-being, suggesting that it might provide greater benefits for users experiencing low self-esteem and low life satisfaction.



Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are examples of communities that use the Internet to supplement for face-to-face contact. One study on college student use of Facebook found that it helped enhance students’ ability to stay connected with the community. Furthermore, because a student’s Facebook network can be bounded by an affiliation to a particular college, Facebook is very much tied to the relationships and interactions that take place offline on a campus.

While there are very few empirical studies that show a link between social media use and student engagement, research on the use of Facebook by college students has shown that there are positives correction to Facebook use and the psychological well-being of the users. Facebook has been found to play an important role in helping students maintain old relationships and also foster new relationships on their college campus. This helps to lower barriers for participation in campus life and a willingness to support the community (Ellison, N. B., Steinfield, C., & Lampe, C., 2007, Steinfield, C., Ellison, N. & Lampe, C., 2008).

APA Citation

Ellison, N. B., Steinfield, C., & Lampe, C. (2007). The benefits of Facebook "friends:" Social capital and college students' use of online social network sites. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 12(4), article 1.

About the Study

Links to Article
Mode Technology-enhanced
Publication Type Journal Article
In Publication Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication
Type of Research Quantitative
Research Design Survey research (qualitative or quantitative)
Intervention/Areas of Study Social media, Social presence, Student readiness
Level of Analysis Student-level
Specific Populations Examined Undergraduates
Peer-Reviewed Yes
Specific Institutional Characteristics of Interest 4-year Institution, Doctorate-granting, Public
Specific Course or Program Characteristics
Outcome Variables of Interest Other
Student Sample Size 500 +
Citing Articles,50&sciodt=0,50&hl=en