The Development of Online Friendship Scale

The Development of Online Friendship Scale

Avin Fadilla Helmi (Faculty of Psychology, Universitas Gadjah Mada, Yogyakarta, Indonesia, Indonesia), Wahyu Widhiarso (Faculty of Psychology, Universitas Gadjah Mada, Yogyakarta, Indonesia, Indonesia) and Aftina Nurul Husna (Faculty of Psychology & Humanities, Universitas Muhammadiyah Magelang, Magelang, Indonesia)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 14
DOI: 10.4018/IJCBPL.2017100102
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This article discusses concept and measurement of online friendship in an Indonesian context. Online friendship is considered to be superficial due to the lack of face-to-face interaction and emotional intimacy. Based on grounded theory research, online friendship consists of five dimensions: caution, voluntariness, companionship, sharing, and mutual support (Study 1). UGM's Online Friendship Scale was developed as measurement of online friendship (Study 2). Initial set of items was administered to university students (N = 42) and resulted in 21 reliable items (r = .408-.687). Construct validity testing was appropriately used for the data (Bartlett's Test = 1174.1 (p<.05), KMO values = .837). CFA confirms that the online friendship scale is multidimensional. The factor loads came up with four dimensions: sharing (30.197%), voluntariness (8.576%), companionship (8.256%), and mutual support (7.769%). Sharing (information and knowledge) was the dimension with highest contribution, indicating online friendship serves more as means of networking between users rather than social bonding.
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In the current era of information and digital technology, a new form of friendship emerges. It challenges the concept of traditional friendship. Friendship is defined as a “voluntary interdependence between two people over time, that is intended to facilitate socio-emotional goals of the participants, and may involve varying types and degrees of companionship, intimacy, affection, and mutual assistance” (Hays, in Demir & Ozdemir, 2010; Collins & Madsen, 2006). Three aspects have been known to form the basis of friendship, namely reciprocality, interdependency, and voluntary actions (Rubin, Bukowski, & Parker, 2006). Hence, exploring the current style of friendship becomes essential, mainly to understand young generations these days.

Online friendship develops and evolves through computer-mediated communication (CMC) in an online social context (Chan & Cheng, 2004). The emergence of social networking sites (SNS) that connect millions of internets users worldwide, such as Friendster, MySpace, LinkedIn, and Facebook, significantly increases the number of online friendship. Situated in completely different space, unusual phenomena begin to occur and are failed to be explained by existing psychological and social theories of friendship.

CMC became increasingly popular in the 1990s and drives many experts to investigate the nature of interpersonal relationship in cyberspace as well as its antecedents (Hwang, 2014), dynamics (De Choudhury, Sundaram, John, & Seligmann, 2010), and effects (Helliwell & Huang, 2013). For examples, the phenomena of love in the virtual world indicates the unique development of online relation (Cooper & Sportolari, 1997); occurrence of self-contradiction and distinct dynamics of personality (Amichai-Hamburger, Wainapel, Fox, 2002), and more intense and frequent expression resulting from online disinhibition effect (Suler, 2004).

Some studies have specifically investigated online friendship, its development and features. Parks and Floyd (1996) investigated how people build friendships in cyberspace. Friendship is a typical relationship in cyberspace, formed with new acquaintances in SNS. It evolves with time and usually progresses into offline situations. For many people, cyberspace is another place to meet and the friendship will eventually move into the real world.

Osborn (2000) defined online friendship based on its characteristics. The methods include applying characteristics of offline friendship onto online friendships and seeing the difference in scores that the subjects gave to their online and offline friends. Similar to offline friendship, online friendship is characterized by the presence of mutuality, authenticity, fun, complementarity, understanding, and commonality, but in a lower level. However, since this study sought to explore online friendship in offline friendship perspective, no new findings were found regarding the nature of online friendship.

Chan and Cheng (2004) compared the quality of online and offline friendship at different stages of development based on seven dimensions of interpersonal relationships, namely interdependence, breadth, depth, code change, understanding, commitment, and network convergence. In line with previous study, online friendship has a relatively lower quality compared to offline one. However, as time passes, allowing more messaging exchanges, the quality will increase to the point that it no longer differs much with offline friendship quality.

Talmud and Mesch (2007), and Antheunis, Valkenburg, and Peter (2012) found that the quality of online social relations depends on the duration and diversity of topics and activities that people take together. Time plays a vital role because it facilitates the development of collective history and identity. Meanwhile, intimacy is formed through participation in joint activities and discussion of various issues of personal concern. Proximity to friends is a function of perceived social similarity, diversity of content and activity, and duration of relationships.

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