Internet social networking sites have been the source of much speculation and controversy in the few years that they have been in existence. These sites (the most popular being MySpace and Facebook) allow their users to create online profiles, with which they can post pictures of themselves and interact with other users via text-based messaging. These sites are especially popular among teens and young adults, many of whom find their lives controlled by these sites. Utilizing the Uses and Gratificatioons approach in combination with the theory of the niche, the aim of this study is to understand the gratifications that are derived from the use of social networking sites, and how those gratifications compare with those obtained from the use of other communications methods (face-to-face communication and e-mail). Additionally, the study explores whether or not there has been a displacement effect for these older media with the introduction of social networking. A sample of 340 undergraduate and graduate students from a large western university were surveyed in-class regarding their use of three communications media (internet social networking, e-mail, and face-to-face communication). Students responded to 25 gratifications statements for each medium, rating how often they had used it for that particular purpose. They also responded to a question regarding whether their use of e-mail and face-to-face conversation has changed since they started using social networking sites. Answers from the gratification statements were subjected to principal component factor analysis using varimax rotation. After throwing out 10 statements due to their incompatibility across the three media, three gratification factors emerged: Gratification Opportunities, Social Utility, and Entertainment. Then using niche formulas, the media was compared across these three factors. Overall, face-to-face communication had the broadest niche, signalling that is best capable of fulfilling media gratifications. It also had the broadest niche in the Social Utility and Entertainment Factor, while e-mail had the broadest niche in the Gratifications Opportunities dimension. The results suggest that social networking may be popular because it acts as a convenient place to hang out — combining its relatively broad niches in Gratifications Opportunities and Entertainment gratifications, but shows little support for a displacement effect caused by its adoption.



College and Department

Fine Arts and Communications; Communications



Date Submitted


Document Type





internet social networking, gratification niches, MySpace, Facebook, theory of the niche, uses and gratifications



Included in

Communication Commons