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Urban Residents on the Network: A Case Study of Nanjing, China

Abstract: The growing information technology has been reshaping the physical urban space
and the way urban residents interact with each other. With the widespread use of online social
networking web sites (OSN) in China, there is a growing research interest in the role of distance in
people’ online interactions. Using Sina Weibo interpersonal interaction data of urban residents in
Nanjing, China, our analysis shows that urban residents not only interact with friends and local
users in the real life, but also tend to build online social networks with them. The sSpatial and
relational distances play an important role in traditional Chinese social networks, which also exist
in the virtual social networks. In addition, our regression analysis suggestts that both socio-
economic and Internet experience influence urban residents’ interpersonal interactions in the
virtual space, confirming the role of online social networks in extending and maintaining people’s
social networks in the real-world.
Keywords: information and communication technologies; distance; social networks; Internet
experience; Sina Weibo; China
1 Introduction
Entering intoEngaging in interpersonal interactions, whether living today, in the past or in the
future, it is fundamental in human life, for not everyone works but every human being lives in
a social network. In particular, China pays great attention on social networks, or guanxi, in the
Oriental culture, which sometimes are even the keys to understanding the success of
individual (Davies et al. 1995, Gu et al 2008, Xin and Pearce 1996). Urban residents used to
have more face-to-face communications with locals and acquaintances, compared to with
non-locals and strangers (Mok and Wellman 2007) a. And as the concentration of flows, cities
enjoyed their great advantage of providing urban residents channels to increase the incidence
of building multiple social networks. Transportation advancements have promoted
interpersonal interactions across cities and increased opportunities to communicate with
strangers;, however, these communication were limited to the speed and the cost of travel
(Mok et al 2010). Therefore, spatial and relational distance have long been recognized to
heavily affect the development and survival of people’s social networks in the real-world
before the Internet (Mok and Wellman 2007, Wellman and Leighton 1979).

The rapid development of information and communication technologies (ICTs) has brought
electronic communication modes (i.e., (mobile) phone, instant message service, email, and
recently the popular online social networking web site (OSN)) which have been expected to
affect the relationship of spatial and relational distance to people’s social networks because of
their lower cost. Though there are ais a large and growing amount of empirical evidence on
the effect of spatial and relational distance in people’s telephone and email communications
(e.g., Carrasco et al 2008, Mok and Wellman 2007, Mok et al 2010, Tillema et al 2010), our
knowledge on people’s interpersonal interactions in OSN is inadequate. However, since 2008,
OSNs (e.g., Twitter and Facebook in Western countries and Weibo in China) haves gained
global popularity and been commonly and frequently used in people’s daily lifves (Guan et al
2014, Zhen et al 2017).
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this study aims to address this question by exploring their online interpersonal interaction activities in Sina Weibo which is the most famous OSN in China. thus may shape the way people interact with each other. we examine the situations of urban residents’ online interactions with local/non-local users and acquaintance/stranger users in Sina Weibo. On the basis of data on interpersonal interactions of Nanjing adult residents in Sina Weibo. In this case. 2 Literature review Social contact benefitsed from spatial proximity because spatial distance hindereded frequent face-to-face contact among spatially dispersed ties before the Internet. Given that the social networks in the real-world of urban residents are mainly built on interpersonal interactions with locals and acquaintances (Mok and Wellman 2007). Chen and Qiu 2013) and. although cars. while the differences between acquaintance and stranger users captures the role of relational distance. 2 . Generally. Therefore. users areit is easy and convenient to interact with others. Kaplan and Haenlein 2010). this examination will also contributes to a deeper understanding of the impacts of new technology on people’s social networks.Compared to other electronic communication modes such as telephone and email. BesidesAdditionally. trains and planes increased the range of interpersonal interactions. 2000). The ties in OSN seems to be very weeak compared to that in the real-world (Takhteyev et al 2012. The survey in 1978 in East York in Toronto identifies a marked drop in the frequency of face-to-face contact at about 5 miles following with a steadily decrease further away before the internet (Mok and Wellman 2007). the OSN also increases the opportunity for maintaining and extending interpersonal interactions easily and conveniently among both acquaintance and strangers. The same phenomenon of less face-to-face contact with members further away has also been demonstrated in other developed countries (Axhausen 2000) and developing countries (Faust et al. In particular. open and transparent (Chen and Qiu 2013. interactive. especially for urban residents whose social networks has been expected to reshaped by the both rapid urbanization and informatization in China (Hazelzet and Wissink 2012). social networks of urban residents based on face-to-face communication are very local and limited to interactions among acquaintance as well. it is reasonable to question the role of spatial and relational distance in people’s interpersonal interactions in this virtual social networks. OSN has been regarded as participative. The differences of interaction frequencies between locals and non-local users examines the role of spatial distance. both global and very local. face-to-face contact frequency and urban residents’ social ties still diminished over spatial distance.

are typically be more active in OSN than do older people (Zhou 2007). which ignites the broad debate over the role of technology in influencing social networks in the real-world (Mok and Wellman 2007. Tillema et al 2010). Liben-Nowell et al. In China. analysis show that young people. Mok and Wellman 2007. The friction sensitivity of telephone to spatial distance could be attributed to the positive relationship between telephone and face-to-face communication. In addition to spatial distance. some studies find that OSN (e. Tillema et al 2010). TheA similar phenomenon is also identified in Netherlands as well (Tillema et al 2010). A recent survey in East York in Toronto finds that people tend to have more telephone calls with others within 100 miles. Using the geographical location information in users’ profiles. Tillema et al 2010. the online relationship among users could be very weak in their real life.g. The study of urban youth in Sweden reports that people tend to communicate via email more with members already known in real life (Thulin and Vilhelmson 2005). The logic behind the positive relationship lies in the strong social ties in telephone communication modes. Takhteyev et al 2012). open and transparent nature of OSN (Chen and Qiu 2013. Mok et al 2010). and household types have been identified to influence people’s face-to-face and electronic communication behavior (Graham and Shelton 2013. employment. Given the participative. interactive. Therefore. Carrasco et al 2008. However. Twitter and LiveJournal) users tend to build more relationships with users with a closer spatial distance in the real-world (e.. the largest group of OSN users. theis virtual social networks in OSN may be quite different from the social networks in the real-world. Tillema et al 2010). a large and growing base of empirical evidence have shown the existence of friction sensitivity of electronic communication modes such as telephone and emails to spatial and relational distance. Zhou 2007). although not as strong as face-to-face contact (e. Thulin and Vilhelmson 2005. The difference can also be observed between women and men. OSN users’ online relationships may also be formulated under the influence of their social networks in the real-world.The advancement of ICTs has changed the balance between spatial distance and communication. 2005. some studies have explained the effect of relational distance on email communications. Variables including gender. as people that have more face-to-face contact are more likely to make more telephone calls (Boase 2006.g. Mok et al 2010. these studies have been challenged because of their failing to control contextual factors owing to the deficient socio-economic characteristics in users’ profiles. Kaplan and Haenlein 2010). age. education. In relation. What evidence is available suggests that there might be substantial difference in the choice of communication mode and contact frequency for different kinds of individuals (Thulin and Vilhelmson 2005.. as well as between highly educated 3 . Despite the hail of “the death of distance” (Cairncross 1997). Thulin and Vilhelmson 2005. whileand the frequency of e-mail contact drops slowly over distance (Mok et al 2010)..g.

the social networks in Chinese people’s real life used to be very local and limit ed to interactions among acquaintances. In the rural areas. Sweden. Some evidences from Japan. gongshe and danwei) (Bjorklund 1986. Xin and Pearce 1996). USA and the UK suggest that more time spending online decreases the time spent physically with others (Nie and Erbring 2000. for urban residents who came from rural/less economically developed areas (usually they do not have a local hukou). the positive relationship between face-to-face contact and electronic contact may be reshaped by the heavy use of ICTS. especially since the turn of this century. In this case. TAnd thus it is reasonable to question the role of spatial and relational distance in their online interpersonal interactions. the acquaintance society is characterized by the close ties among peasants within gongshe (Fei 1983).. China now has the largest number of internet users (China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) 2012) who spend the longest time in online social network and media (Atsmon and Magni 2010). Canada. 1995. In addition. The reform and informatization together. We also 4 . which we expect to shape their interpersonal interactions in OSN. or danwei (Bjorklund 1986. Therefore. it is important to take socio- economic characteristics into account when systematically analyzing the role of distance in urban residents’ interpersonal interactions in OSN. Thulin and Vilhelmson 2005). In traditional China. social networks mainly developed within the walled and gated boundary of work-unit. Therefore. Hazelzet and Wissink 2012. people tends to have frequent interactions with members already known in real life within a small territory (e. we hypothesize that urban residents who spend more time on Internet will be more likely to have more interactions via OSN with non-local users and stranger users. Social networks hasve been always highlighted in Chinese people’s daily life (Davies et al. we expect they will have less communication via OSN with locals and acquaintance partly because of their less interactions with locals and acquaintance in the city in their real life and partly because of their ties in hometown and more communication with townsfolk. The economic reforms since 1978 have generated the rapid urbanization process in which numerous peasants leaveft their farm for work in the city and becaome urban residents as well as the new urban structure in which danwei lost its centrality as a site of social organization (Hazelzet and Wissink 2012). have created one of the most dynamic and rapidly changing social networks in urban residents’ daily life.groups and less educated groups (Wang et al 2015).g. for those urban residents who spent more time in OSN may have a virtual social networks which is completely different from their social networks in the real-world. Whyte and Parish 1985). BesidesIn addition. Whyte and Parish 1985). In the urban areas. Fei 1983. For example. Therefore.

Compared to existing research based on questionnaire or daiary data. Mok and Wellman 2007.g. Nanjing covers an area of 4732 square kilometers. Liben-Nowell et al. Furthermore. Besides. as a case.hypothesize that urban residents living in danwei community will have more communication via OSN with locals and acquaintance because of their previous experience of building social networks with neighbors who live and work together. Combined with the online data record and interviews. the interpersonal interaction frequency data in this research are expect to be more accurate. Nanjing has also has concentrated a large number of 5 . theise online data with geographical information from OSN has recently become a hot research topic in the fields of geography and urban studies (e. The data in the existing studies are mainly from questionnaire.. and communication diary. Nanjing used to be a socialist productive/industrial city where accommodated a number of large scale-owned enterprises (Yuan et al 2016). The online interview has also been frequently used in recent research. the spatial and interaction information left by OSN users provide scholars with a timely and precise recorded dataset. As the capital city of Jiangsu Province. we had in-depth interview (including many open comments) with some typical respondents regarding their interpersonal interactions in Sina Weibo and the real-world. 3 Research design This research selected Nanjing. which heavily depend on the cooperation of respondents and precisenession of their memory (e. 2005. reach and interact with the appropriate respondents cheaply and easily (Zhen et al 2017).. interview. the situation of urban residents’ interpersonal interactions in Sina Weibo came from their online records. Nanjing is a representative of the rapidly growing and large coastal cities of China. Thulin and Vilhelmson 2005. In this paper. this study represents a modest attempt to fill such a gap in our understanding of urban residents’ interpersonal interactions in OSN in China. In particular. Graham et al 2013. Tillema et al 2010). it is important to note that the online dataset help us to identify. Kay et al 2015. More importantly. an ancient capital city of China in the core area of Yangtze River Delta. Zhen et al 2017). Shen and Kayvan 2016. their socio-economic and Internet use characteristics which are likely to influence people’s communication in OSN were from the online interview of the respondents. Acquiring accurate data of the contact frequency with different types of relationships at different geographical distance remains challenging. Besides. Mok et al 2010. with a population of approximately 8 million in 2010 according to the Sixth National Census.g. In addition to urban residents’ online interpersonal interactions. And these enterprises left lots of danwei communityies and some still exist in the contemporary Nanjing. In general. By contrast. particularly in analyzing internet use behaviour (Chou 2001).

When no user in the resulting list met the requirements.27 billion Weibo users (CNNIC 2012). no more than six users are selected in the order in which users appear in the list in each web page. A friend relationship is relatively stronger compared with the follower and following relationship (Zhen. B is one of A’s followings. Nanjing represents a natural “laboratory” suitable for empirical analyses to address the dynamic and rapidly changing social networks in the real- world. then B does not have to follow A.2 million users that randomly listed in web pages. respondents were first asked about their socio-economic characteristics information including gender. follower. education. If a user failed to meet these requirements or refused our interview. Therefore. If A and B follows each other. First. For example. Assessed 29 December 2014. Weibo is popular when we collect our data in 2012.migrants (Yuan et al 2016). we have balanced the quality and quantity of the interviewers. and reply each tweet of B. Each web page lists 20 users and only the preceding 100 web pages are public available. 1 The survey report on the first year of Weibo use in China (Zhongguo weibo yuannian shichang baipishu). namely. 6 . The data areis obtained from an online data mining of Sina microbloggers of Nanjing adult residents.net/lxm19871231/ss- 5245420. forward. from http://www. and the subsequent users were considered one by one until one user has fulfilled the conditions. Given the need to have interviews. following. 2012. In this case.slideshare. The relationships between Sina microbloggers include three types. and Chen in press). Second. the latter web pages of the results were supplemented until 300 Sina microbloggers of Nanjing adult residents were selected. then he was excluded infrom the study. if A follows B. Sina Weibo is the first and most popular OSN which attracted nearly 212 millions of visits per month in 2010 1. judged by the geographical location in users’ profiles. with approximately 0. they are one of each other’s friends. A total of 300 Sina microblogggers are selected in December. Wang. we accessed tocontacted them and goet their approval of online interview to get their situation of interpersonal interactions via Sina wWeibo and socio-economic and internet use characteristics. Nanjing city is selected as a filter criterion in the service of ‘searching users’ in Sina Weibo web site and returns a list of around 1. then for both A and B. and (2) the user should be relatively active on OSN with no less than 200 followers and 200 followings and no less than 3 tweets per day. Follower and following denote a unidirectional relationship between users. Aand for each selected users. and friend. for A. In the interview. A is one of B’s followers and can read. The selected user should satisfy two conditions: (1) the user had to be an adult and normal user but not a celebrity because a celebrity’s OSN functions similar to an advertisement platform rather than for making friends. age.

and Internet use characteristics including smartphone ownership and the daily time spent on Sina Weibo. The interactions include (1) reply and forward tweets and (2) exchange messages. A simple website crawler application was used to automatically collect these information to guarantee the accuracy of the data as well. most of our samples are employed and hold Nanjing hukou mainly because of our focus on urban residents in the sampling.67 Gender 0. 7 . A majority owns smartphones (84. Table 1 Summary of socio-economic and Internet use variables of 300 respondents. And then respondents were asked to calculate the percentage of interactions with local users and acquaintance users.00 21 -29 = 2 144 48.19 = 1 51 17. especially in the group of young people (Chu 2008). Besides.733 0. and friends. In addition.67 Education High school or below = 1 25 8.5 hours on Sina Weibo. e e n Male =1 155 51.33 18 . Nanjing hukou ownership.33 40 or above = 4 32 10. An expected low rate of respondents living in danwei community represents the transformation from communism to market-socialism in contemporary China. It should be noted that the sample is not representative of Nanjing urban population and the findings and discussions are based on the samples collected in this study. which also explaineds a high percentage of highly-educated people of our samples.00 2 This information can be obtained from the geographical location in users’ profile. As to the 300 respondents.517 0. These two percentages in natural logarithms (i. Cas Percentag Mea Variables Description S. respondents were asked to check and count the actual times of their interaction records with other users in Sina Weibo in the recent two weeks.e.00 Age 2. Therefore.33 2..872 30-39 = 3 73 24.851 Junior college = 2 84 28.00% wasere aged below 30 which is in line with the popular use of Weibo in young people in China (CNNIC 2012) and findings in developed countries as well (Thulin and Vilhelmson 2005). community type lived. Table 1 provides descriptive statistics of the sample. Then respondents were asked to provide the percentage of local users who live in Nanjing 2 and acquaintance users who are already known in their real life in their followers.287 0. about half of them spent no less than 0. ItThis can be explained by the widespread use of mobile communication devices in China. followings. 65. Noted that a relationship between users does not definitely lead to actual interpersonal interactions between them in Sina Weibo.D.employment status.33%).501 Female = 0 145 48. LNInter_NJ and LNInter_Acq) are the dependent variables of our analysis to examine the role of spatial distance and relational distance in their interpersonal interactions. Another reason could be the high penetration of Weibo in people with mobile phones (CNNIC 2012).

6% of followings and 60.0 hour = 3 51 17.7%.00 4 Results 4.5 37.6 60. Bordering Provinces. followings. and 0.843 0. Table 2 Percentage of followers.760 more than 1.00 1. 35. 1.620 0.364 No = 0 47 15.4 35.1 Descriptive analysis As shown in Table 2.6 45.7 49.67 Yes = 1 225 75. Figures in brackets represent the 8 . the corresponding average percentage for other thirty provinces are only 1. and friends in Nanjing. A slight percentage difference exists between bordering and non-bordering provinces.3%. respectively. Obviously.00 Danwei community = 1 61 20.7% of friends are living in Nanjing. while the situation in other provinces is diametrically opposed.1 39. Jiagsu Province.5 hour = 1 165 55.67 =0 Yes = 1 253 84.843 0.364 Unemployed = 0 47 15.6% of followers.7 26. 37.7) (3. followings.9) Note: I = Followers.8% followings. While with 49.4) (1.0 hour = 2 84 28.9%.2%. III= Friends. and 49.5% of followers.33 Employment status 0. the percentage of friends in Nanjing and Jiangsu Province is higher than the percentage of followers and following. and Non-bordering Provinces in China for 300 adult Sina microbloggers in Nanjing Non-bordering Jiangsu Province Bordering provinces Nanjing (%) provinces in China (%) (%) and others (%) I II III I II III I II III I II III 15.2) (1. II = Followings.67 Master or above = 4 54 18. 45.8) (3.33 Community type Non-Danwei Community 0. with around twice as average percentage of followers. although considered as relatively weak ties in OSN.00 Employed = 1 253 84.00 Daily Sina Weibo use time 0. Bachelor = 3 137 45. 0.203 0. Within Jiangsu Province.1 (3. The percentage difference between Jiangsu Province and other thirty provinces is striking. as the three average corresponding percentages for other twelve cities are 1.7 13.1. the difference between Nanjing and other twelve cities in Jiangsu Province is astonishing as well.3) (0. and friends in bordering provinces as in non-bordering provinces.00 Nanjing hukou 0.5 35.33 Smartphone ownership 0.434 No = 0 75 25.3 14.8 49.67 Less than 0.9%. and 0.5 .403 239 79.1% of friends coming from Jiangsu province. our data demonstrate a high degree of concentration of relationship in Sina Weibo with local users for the 300 respondents. The opposition reveals that not only are urban residents tending to build more virtual relationships with locals but also keeping stronger relationships. respectively. More specifically.750 0.2%.

Both two percentages are higher than the corresponding percentage of relationship in Sina Weibo. which is in consistent with existing results in Western countries (Thulin and Vilhelmson 2005). In other words. and friends in this current study. indicating that among their followers. the corresponding mean value of the overall percentage were 51.1% of friends are acquaintance in real life. This suggests that urban residents’ interpersonal 9 .. urban residents also tend to have more interactions with local users and acquaintance users.4% followings. age. a higher percentage of acquaintance in real life in friends than that in followers and following demonstrates a closer relational distance in friend relationship in OSN. Nanjing hukou ownership. followings.1% of followers. and daily Sina Weibo use time are significant in both Model 1 and Model 2. community type. and friends. In general.5% and 56. Specifically. the percentage of Sina Microbloggers’ friend relationship with local users and acquaintance acquainted users in natural logarithms (i.percentage per province. and friends in Sina Weibo.2 Explanatory analysis Noted that a Sina Microblogger’s more higher level of interaction with local users and acquaintedance users may be attributed to their higher percentage of relationship with local users and acquaintance users. and 52. 44. There was a high percentage of relationships in Sina Weibo with acquaintance users for the 300 respondents as well. variables including gender. 4. followings. LNFri_NJ and LNFri_Acq) were introduced as the control variables.9%. Table 3 presents the reports of robust regression model exploring socio-economic and Internet use characteristics in influencing urban residents’ preferable interactions with local users (Model 1) and acquaintance users (Model 2) in Sina Weibo. We also carry out a Variance Inflation Factor (VIF) test and find out no evidence of multicollinearity among independent variables.33 and/or statistically insignificant. All correlation coefficients among variables in the final model are less than 0. respectively. respondents are only asked to calculate the overall percentage of interactions in Sina Weibo with local users and acquaintance users. following. Specifically. Prior to estimating the regression models. they are not required to differentiate the interactions among follows. a Pearson correlation analysis was used to check the correlation between independent variables before each regression model was applied.e. In the regression model of the role of distance in the personal interactions in Sina Weibo. Similarly. 43. Due to the difficulty and time-consuming nature of differentiating the situation among followers.

633 F-value 42.128 0.017 0.071** 0.) .01.162 0.085** 30-39 0.028* 0.030 0.351*** 3.929 0.E.651 0.031*** 0. As shown by many recent studies (Tillema et al 2010.179 0.) - High school or below 0.010 Nanjing hukou (Other cities = ref.5 . though. males are significantly more likely to have interactions with local users and acquaintedance users.086* 0.E.024*** = ref.026*** Community Type (Non-danwei community 0.169 .interaction behaviour in Sina weibo have beenare influenced by both their socio-economic and Internet use characteristics both. S.287 Constant 4. Ren and Kwan 2009).) 0.030 0.0 hour 0.064 0.191 0.045 0. Coef.018*** 0.1.381*** 2 Adjusted R 0. This finding indicates that in the virtual social networks with thea participative.248 0.025 0.110 Gender (female = ref.44 31.05.071*** 40 or above 0.043 0.118 0.019 Daily Sina Weibo use time (less than 0. female urban residents have greater need to save time and eliminate travel because of they experience more stringent 10 .030 0. Table 3 Robust regression results for the role of spatial and relational distance in urban residents’ personal interactions in Sina Weibo Variable Model 1 Model 2 Robust Robust Coef. - 0.023*** 0.057 0.024 .) 0.023* 0.. this tendency is insignificant. - More than 1.045 0.022*** 0. ** p<0.053 0.042 0.259 0. LNFri_NJ 0. S.053*** Education (Postgraduate or above = ref. however.188 0.028 Bachelor 0.001 Compared to female respondents.272 0.028* 0.038 Junior college 0.19 = ref.018*** Age (18 .) 0.104 LNFri_Acq 0.033*** 0.039 0. - Smartphone ownership (None = ref.023*** 0.026 0. open and transparent nature.0 hour 0.133 0.304 0.042 0. when compared with men. a relationship between users does not equal to the actual interpersonal interactions between them. *** p<0.105 0.106 0.5 hour = ref.75 Note: * p<0. Sina Microbloggers with a higher percentage of relationship with local users and acquaintance users tend to have more interaction with local users and acquaintance users. - Employment (Non-employed = ref.) .023*** 0. interactive. Out of our expectation.) 20-29 0.) 0.253 0.272 0. An explanatory reason could be that women tend to be more active and engage more activities in the Internet.

the Sina Weibo helps to extend their social networks in the virtual world. An explanatory reason could be the more participative and open attitude towards OSN among urban residents of the age of 18-19 years (Thulin and Vilhelmson 2005). This is in line with the powerful negative effects of Weibo use time. The more time spentd on Weibo. we have the same interests though we may come from almost everywhere and maybe in the future we have chances to meet in the real world. 11 . As one typical teenager respondent highlighted. It is common for them to build more relationships and have more interactions with users already know in real life. “I like to follow other users and I also like to be followed by other users in Sina Weibo. respondents in 20s. the spatial and relational distance become relatively weak for female urban residents and this virtual social networks may help to extend their social networks in the real-world. who knows?”. 30s. Sina Weibo becomes an important platform for me to get news. making them to have more interactions with different kinds of people who have the same interest in this topic. 20s and 30s tend to have more interactions with local users. especially entertainment and fashion news.space-time constraints. In this case. when compared with users in 20s and 30s who grew up along the fast development of ICTs. And it is fine for me to contact anyone in Sina Weibo. “I seldom used OSN before. and 40s or above are more likely to interact with users already known in real life. Moreover. But when I communicated with one of my old friend one day. On the contrary. Aand they interact with other users more carefully. Compared with respondents in the age of 18-19 years. he strongly recommended me to use Weibo to extend my virtual social networks. Some of them choose to use Sina Weibo because of their friends’ recommendation. I like to read. women are more likely to share their opinions over some hot topic in Sina Weibo (CNNIC 2015). forward. In addition. and reply each tweet follow of them”. the more likely to have frequently interactions with non-locals. the spatial and relational distance are still strong for urban residents in 40s and above and this virtual social networks help to maintain their social networks in the real-world. “To some extent. and thus have more opportunities to interact with users other than in the same city. without too much considering of who they are and whether I know them before”. making them more likely to engage in Internet activities. As one female respondent added. I think Sina Weibo is really good for me to exchange my opinion with old friends who I may have not meet too often. In this case. As one typical respondent in 40s mentioned. aAnd I like to discuss theise news with my online friends though we even do not know each other before. It gives you a feeling that you are really popular and important. It is cool if you have more followers or friends. For most teenager residents with a relatively small social networks in the real-world. Sina Weibo seems relatively new for respondents in 40s and above.

On the contrary. though these migrants leave their hometown. I like to interact with others via Sina Weibo”. As one respondent living in danwei community added. and thereby decreased frequencies of face- 12 . more importantly. from them I can get in-time news of my hometown and sometimes th iese news are hard to get from newspapers or TV”. It is interesting to notice the substantial influence of Nanjing hukou ownership and danwei community on urban residents’ interactions with local users and acquaintanced users in Sina Weibo. “first. This function is very important in making social capital for those migrants in big cities in China (Liu et al 2012). Respondents living in danwei community are more likely to interact with local users and acquaintance users.. And I do not care whether this user is in Nanjing and whether I know him before.Employed respondents are significantly more likely to interact more often with non-locals. however. I really like to be more engaged in interactions with other local users and acquaintance users. As you may know. This is presumably caused by their larger social networks in the real-world than non-employed respondents’. compared with urban residents with a postgraduate degree or above. Furthermore. we have less interaction and it is hard to say that we could become friends in the real life. are significantly likely to have more frequently interaction with non-local users and stranger users. these interactions were more real for me”. the danwei now does not organize many community activities as before when I was a child. This finding may be attributed to their weak ties with local people in their real life. who are mostly migrant workers. I have built friendship in Sina Weibo with almost everyone living in the same danwei community who use Sina Weibo as well and we interact with each other quite often. which might be explained by the impacts of their experience of building social networks with neighbors who live and work together and always encounters in a ‘walled’ and ‘gated’ compounds (Hazelzet and Wissink 2012). instead. Sina Weibo sometimes also played as a role as the online platform for community integration. it is common to meet and work with others during my live and work in Nanjing. indicating that Sina Weibo sometimes functions as a platform to maintain their distant ties in hometown. Sina Weibo provides me a chance to interact with other online. second. “Hometown gives you a familiarity feeling and I like to make friends and interact with users in hometown in Sina Weibo. I cannot find my root here. Respondents without a Nanjing hukou. when compared with unemployed ones. “Due to the reform of danwei community. And after work. “Though I have lived in Nanjing for many years. they are more likely to interact with user from their hometown online. As one migrant respondent said. we usually stay together for a short period. which could be also explained the significantly increasing possibility for urban residents with a junior college or bachelor degree to have less interactions with users out of Nanjing.

whether this influence will penetrate into their social networks in the real-world still needs more detailed research. The discussion on the role of spatial and relational distance in Sina Weibo also respond to the debate of the role of virtual social networks in maintaining. other than the technology contained in the phone (Chu 2008). but also tend to interact more frequently with members locally and already known in real life. or mianzi. Robust regression analyses were employed to explore the socio-economic and Internet use characteristics in influencing the spatial and relational role of distance in Sina Weibo by examining urban residents’ interpersonal interactions with local/non-local users and acquaintance/stranger users. this virtual social network help to maintain their social networks in the real-world. However. However. our data reveals that urban residents not only tend to build virtual relationships with local users and acquaintance users in Sina Weibo. however. now we sometimes share or discuss our community issues and collecting opinions on organizing some community activities through Sina Weibo”. Therefore. added by one young respondent. Our analysis suggest that spatial distance and relational distance still root in both urban residents’ relationship and interpersonal interactions in Sina Weibo. having a smartphone sometimes is more likely a consideration for people’s face. 2008). 5 Conclusions This paper analyzes the role of distance in OSN in China with a culture of heavily emphasis on social networks. However. it should be noted that the more time spent on Sina Weibo significantly increases the possibility of respondents’ interactions with non-local users and stranger users. strengthening or extending people’s social networks in the real-world (Licoppe 2004. In this case. more research are is needed to trace these changes and to test how these changes will influence people’s social networks in 13 . which indicates the influence of technology on urban residents’ virtual social networks. As some scholars argued. it is also interesting to notice that the more time spent in the virtual world will also decrease the function of spatial and relational distance.. Veenhof et al. In particular.to-face meetings with my neiboughers. There is no obvious difference in interactions with local/non-local users and acquaintance/stranger users among respondents with a smartphone or not. It is interesting to notice that hukou ownership and danwei community which tend to influence urban residents’ social networks in the real-world still functions significantly in the virtual social networks. One reason might be the high smartphone penetration in China. However. especially for relatively stronger friendship. the role of spatial and relational distance acted differently in Sina microbloggers with different socio-economic and Internet use characteristics.

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