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Cyber relationship motives: scale development and validation.

The Internet is currently a popular medium through which to develop interpersonal relationships. Making friends seems to be one of the main activities in which individuals engage when they use the Internet (Katz & Rice, 2009).

In previous studies (Mesch & Talmud, 2006; Peter, Valkenburg, & Schouten, 2005) it has been found that individuals attempt to make friends online for various reasons. For example, Peter and colleagues proposed five motives that spur individuals to communicate online: entertainment, social inclusion, maintaining relationships, meeting new people, and social compensation. Peris et al. (2002) found that individuals chat online to discuss work, hobbies, and topics which they are interested in, experiment in a new communication channel, satisfy their need to socialize, seek friendships, engage in virtual sex, and in an attempt to find a romantic partner.

Although previous researchers have pointed out that the online relationship has become a primary activity on the Internet, few researchers have constructed a comprehensive scale for understanding the motivations for online relationship activities. For both academic and practical researchers, the lack of a comprehensive scale for cyber-relationship motives may be an obstacle to the advanced research of online relationships. Therefore, in this study we developed the Cyber-Relationship Motives (CRM) Scale to assess factors that may motivate individuals to make friends on Internet.

According to Rubin, Perse, and Barbato (1988), people have diversified communication motives, including pleasure, affection, inclusion, escape, relaxation, and control. These communication motives promote the development of interpersonal relationships online. However, the development of online relationships is different from that of offline relationships because of the features of the Internet (Bonebrake, 2002). As an example, physical attractiveness plays a crucial role in offline relationship development but not in that of cyber-relationships. In the present study we have defined cyber-relationship motives as the reasons people want to use Internet to create a new relationship. Based on the previous literature, in our study we have identified nine factors as the motives that cause Internet users to communicate and develop relationships online. These nine factors were then grouped into the three dimensions of adventure, escape to a virtual world, and romance.

ADVENTURE

Anonymity With the anonymity feature of Internet, people can connect easily with others and develop new relationships. This feature is crucial to both males and females when they meet people online (Cooper & Sportolari, 1997) and may promote greater intimacy and closeness, which are two notable parts of friendship (McKenna, Green, & Gleason, 2002). The anonymity of the Internet may also trigger self-disclosure and moderate disclosure risks. For example, people will share their spiritual beliefs and affective reactions online without worrying about criticism and approval (McKenna et al.). Thus, the Internet may reduce the impact of social norms and inhibitions present in face-to-face communication and allow individuals to express freely feelings and opinions on taboo topics (Chou & Peng, 2007).

Opportunity to meet new people The Internet is a technology that almost everyone is now using. It is not only an efficient way to gather information, but also an effective social tool to connect users around the world (Chou & Peng, 2007; McCown, Fischer, Page, & Homant, 2001). On the Internet, people can easily fulfill the need to develop new relationships and expand their social networks. Some adolescents even consider the Internet as primarily a social medium (Peter, Valkenburg, & Schouten, 2006).

In traditional environments, such as schools, workplaces, and physical communities, it is not necessarily easy to find friends with similar interests, attitudes, backgrounds, and personalities. However, due to the broad base of Internet users, people can easily find online others with similar backgrounds, attitudes, or personalities (Bonebrake, 2002). The ease in meeting new people is a feature of the Internet that facilitates individuals going online to establish relationships (McKenna et al., 2002).

Easy to communicate People can easily communicate with others around the world on the Internet. This technology has shortened the travel and time required for people to communicate with others (McKenna & Bargh, 2000). Thus, the Internet facilitates connections with others and gives individuals more options in finding new friends and forming relationships.

Curiosity The Internet is a nontraditional interaction environment. People may try to use the Internet as a vehicle to make friends because they are curious about, and want to explore, this new communication channel (Peris et al., 2002). Online friendship activities may be both amusing and enjoyable.

Emotional support Individuals may go online and make friends through dialogue with virtual community members in order to achieve emotional and social support. Members share their comments and suggestions online, ask strangers about the information they need, and experience a sense of belonging and intimacy through the interaction process (Ridings & Gefen, 2004).

ESCAPE TO A VIRTUAL WORLD

Escape from the real world Internet users may consider online communication as an activity that helps them to escape real-life worries or bothersome activities (Rubin et al., 1988). Thus, individuals can relax through dialogue with others online and may make friends online in order to experience pleasure.

Social compensation Online communication can be used to overcome the constraints of face-to-face situations, such as social anxiety. It is a less stressful way to connect with others. Therefore, people may use the Internet to compensate for their lack of social skills (Peter et al., 2005).

ROMANCE

Love Recently, Internet users have become fascinated by online romantic relationships (Merkle & Richardson, 2000). Some dating websites report that many couples marry after meeting online. A popular movie entitled "You've Got Mail" (starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks) told the story of two persons who find each other through the Internet.

Parks and Floyd (1996) found that nearly two-thirds of newsgroup members had developed interpersonal relationships with those they had met online. Among these relationships, 7.9% of them were romantic. In addition, in previous research it has also been shown that computer-mediated communication improves close relationship development (Nice & Katzev, 1998). In the development of personal relationships, computer-mediated communication can reduce the importance of physical attributes and enhance the importance of other factors, such as similarity and harmony (Cooper & Sportolari, 1997). Therefore, finding a romantic partner is often the reason individuals seek to make friends online.

Sexual partners Prior researchers have reported that pursuing sexual relationships online is a preferred activity of Internet users' preferred activities (Thayer & Ray, 2006). A survey in Sweden showed that most respondents used the Internet for sexual purposes (Daneback, Mansson, & Ross, 2007). Some individuals may go online to find someone with whom to engage in sexual activities offline.

MATERIALS AND METHOD

In the current study we used the 9-factor model of cyber-relationship motives described above, categorized into the three dimensions already described: adventure, escape to a virtual world, and romance. We conducted four empirical studies to develop and validate the Cyber-Relationship Motives (CRM) Scale.

GENERATION OF SAMPLE ITEMS

To obtain a pool of measurement items that reflect the motives for a cyber-relationship, we carried out an extensive literature review and also conducted one-on-one interviews with 36 Internet users who had experience in creating cyber-relationships. These respondents were asked why they engage in cyber-relationships. All their responses were collected and labeled. These items were presented to a focus group of 10 persons composed of two doctoral students, two research fellows with master's degrees, and six graduate students. All of them had experience in conducting online behavior research. The focus group examined the cyber-relationship motivations of the 36 respondents and obtained 56 items. These 56 items were presented using a 5-point Likert scale ranging from strongly agree to strongly disagree.

PURIFICATION

Study 2 was designed to purify the measurement scale for the motives to make friends online. A total of 500 copies of a paper-and-pencil questionnaire with the 56 items generated in Study 1 were distributed randomly at the main entrance of a business college building of a Taiwanese university. Potential participants were informed that they had the right to decline. A small gift worth US$2 was given to respondents upon completion of the questionnaires.

A total of 248 students (49.60%) responded to this survey. Of them, 84 were not included in the final analysis because they had never used the Internet to build any cyber-relationship. Therefore, the final sample consisted of 164 participants, of whom 54% were female and 46% were male. The average age of respondents was 22.5 years with a standard deviation of 1.84 years. The participants spent an average of 13.3 hours per week on the Internet, and 1.2 hours per week making friends online.

The methodology adopted for the purification of the Cyber-Relationship Motives Scale was created using the guidelines of Pons, Mourali, and Nyeck (2006), Churchill (1979), and DeVellis (1991). First, within the nine factors, items were removed if they correlated negatively with one another, or they did not correlate strongly with the remaining items. Items were also removed when they included a low variance and the mean of the items was significant beyond the center of their range. Second, exploratory factor analysis was used for data analysis. Items that had a factor loading below .60 and those with a high loading on multiple factors were deleted from the scale. The analyses resulted in a reduced scale of 29 items. According to the exploratory factor analysis, the nine factors explained 79% of the total variance. All factor loadings ranged between .68 and .96, and the computed reliability of standardized Cronbach's alpha was .90, as given in Table 1.

The correlations between the nine factors were examined and it was noted that some were strongly correlated. Therefore, another exploratory factor analysis was conducted to examine the relationships among the nine motivation factors. The exploratory factor analysis results showed that these nine motivation factors could be grouped into three abstract motivations dimensions: adventure, escape to a virtual world, and romance, as given in Table 2.

PARSIMONY

At the beginning of this stage, the questionnaire consisted of 29 items. These measures included the nine factors of cyber-relationship motives.

The next step was the random distribution of 700 questionnaires at the main entrance of an engineering college building at the same university used in Study 2. However, to increase the likelihood that the respondents would be different, the building selected was different from the one used in Study 2. Potential participants were informed that they had the right to decline. Respondents were again rewarded with a gift worth US$2 upon completion of the questionnaire.

A total of 434 students (62%) responded to this questionnaire. Of these, 21 were excluded because of missing data or because they had had no cyber-relationship experience. Thus, the final sample consisted of 433 respondents, 31% female and 69% male. The average age of these participants was 23.79 years with a standard deviation of 6.12 years and they spent an average of 12.80 hours per week on the Internet, and 4.00 hours per week making friends online.

The Cyber-Relationship Motives Scale was evaluated through a confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) using a generalized least squares estimation. After examination of the modification indices of the CFA analysis and after checking the scale statement to reduce unnecessary repetition, two items were removed for further analysis. The CFA was re-examined on the remaining 27 items, three for each of nine motivation factors, resulting in sound fitness of the model with a goodness of fit index (GFI) of .92 and an adjusted goodness of fit index (AGFI) of .90. The GFI and AGFI indicators are both within the acceptable criteria range established in previous studies (Gefen, Straub, & Boudreau, 2000; Jiang, Klein, & Carr, 2002) of GFI above .90 and AGFI above .80. The ratio of x2 and degrees of freedom was 1.59 (x2 = 456.69; df = 288), which falls within the established criteria of 2.5 to 4 (Bollen, 1989). The 27 items are listed in the Appendix.

Second-order CFA was conducted on the remaining 27 items to evaluate the proposed second-order structures of motivations, resulting in a GFI of .91 and an AGFI of .89 (see Figure 1). These indicators are both within the acceptable criteria range. The ratio of x2 and degree of freedom was 1.68 (x2 = 525.31; df= 312), which falls within the established criteria of 2.5 to 4 (Bollen, 1989).

SCALE VALIDATION

The goal of this data collection stage was to assess the validity of the scale. This survey included the 10-item Passion Scale and the 27-item Cyber-Relationship Motives Scale. This survey was conducted at a different Taiwanese university from that used for Studies 2 and 3 and 700 questionnaires were distributed at the campus on a weekday. A small gift worth US$2 was given to respondents upon completion of the questionnaires. In total, 556 questionnaires were collected and 360 (51.43%) were included in this study after eliminating those with invalid answers and respondents without previous cyber-relationship experience. The final sample consisted of 67% female and 33% male participants with an average age of 22.0 and a standard deviation of 2.92 years. These respondents spent an average of 13.6 hours each week on the Internet. A CFA using a generalized least squares estimation showed that the model had a GFI of .90 and an AGFI of .88, which were both within the acceptable criteria range. The ratio of x2 and degrees of freedom was 1.53 (x2 = 476.59; df = 312), which also falls within the established criteria of 2.5 to 4.

Since the reliability and the structure of the scale were supported, the validity was then examined in the following way. Convergent and discriminant validity are commonly evaluated in scale development. Based on prior research, convergent validity is acceptable when all factor loadings are above .50 (Fornell & Larcker, 1981). The results showed that in our study all factor loadings were greater than .50, ranging from .56 to .99.

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

The discriminant validity of the Cyber-Relationship Motives Scale was examined through correlation among the nine factors (motives). The results showed that correlation among the nine factors ranged from -.01 to .47 and were all significantly lower than unity (1.0). The results are reported in Table 3.

To examine the construct validity, relationship coefficients were tested between cyber-relationship motives and passion. Passion is defined as a strong tendency for people toward an activity that people like, find valuable, and in which they are willing to invest lots of time (Vallerand et al., 2003). Therefore, it would be expected that Internet users who are very passionate about making friends online would also have high scores on cyber-relationship motives. Accordingly, there should be a positive relationship between the nine cyber-relationship motive factors and passion. This proposition was supported by the results of the correlation analysis, which revealed significant positive relationships between passion and the nine cyber-relationship motives. As can be seen in Table 4, these results provide further evidence of the construct validity of our scale.

DISCUSSION

The Internet has become a vital part of the daily life for some people. In recent years, forming online relationships with others is not an exceptional occurrence but rather, a common phenomenon. Therefore, it is important to learn what causes people to cultivate interpersonal relationships online. In this article we aimed to highlight the cyber-relationship motives that spur users to form relationships with others on the Internet. Through four empirical surveys, we identified nine cyber-relationship motives. The scale we developed based on these was subjected to a validation process, and the scale's structure was confirmed to be stable across different samples. Through the results of the four empirical surveys, we showed that our respondents shared the nine motivations.

For researchers, this scale provides an extensive understanding of cyber-relationships and the underlying motives for these. For match website or online-dating website marketers, this scale could be used to enhance their business strategy by discovering their members' true desires in meeting people online.

In the current study samples of college students were used to develop the scale. For the purpose of generalization, in future studies samples of different Internet users should be used to validate the scale. The difference in motivations between students and general Internet users might be a critical issue for future research. In addition, this study was conducted in Taiwan and cultural background may be a key factor influencing individuals' cyber-relationship motives, especially the motives relative to romance and sexual partners. Researchers in the future could use the scale developed in the present study as part of a cross-cultural comparison of cyber-relationship motives.
APPENDIX

CYBER RELATIONSHIP MOTIVES (CRM) SCALE (27 ITEMS)

Adventure

Anonymity

Because I want to talk with someone who does not know who I a
Because I can talk to online friends about anything
I can present the real me when I make friends online

Opportunity to meet new people

Because I can expand my social network
Because I can find companions with whom to spend time
Because I can find friends who share my interests

Easy to communicate

Because making friends online is easy
Because making friends online is convenient
The interface for cyber relationship is easy to use

Curiosity

My friends use the Internet to make friends, so I want to try it
Because making friends online is new for me
Because making friends online is fun

Emotional support

Because making friends online comforts my spirit
Because online friends are willing to listen to me
Because my online friends help me calm my mind

Escape to a virtual world

Social compensation

Because I rarely interact with others in real life
Because I cannot find friends in other places
Because I do not have other chances to make friends

Away from the real world

Because there are many annoyances and troubles in real life
Because I want to escape my real life temporarily
Because I want to forget my worries temporarily

Finding romance

Love

Because I am looking for my soul mate
Because I want to fall in love with someone
Because I am looking for sweet romance

Sexual partners

Because I am looking for a one-night stand
Because I am looking for sexual relationships
Because I am looking for cyber-sex


DOI 10.2224/sbp.2010.38.3.289

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Chih-Chien Wang and Ya-Ting Chang

National Taipei University, Taiwan, ROC

Chih-Chien Wang, PhD, Professor, and Ya-Ting Chang, MBA, Graduate Institute of Information Management, National Taipei University, Taiwan, ROC.

The authors gratefully acknowledge financial support from the Taiwan National Science Council (NSC 97-2410-H-305-040 and 96-2416-H-305-003).

Appreciation is due to anonymous reviewers.

Please address correspondence and reprint requests to: Chih-Chien Wang, P.O. Box 4-1, Sansia Township, Taipei County 23799, Taiwan, ROC. Phone: ?2-86746673; Fax: ?2-26736551; Email: wangson@niail.ntpu.edu.tw
TABLE 1
EXPLORATORY FACTOR ANALYSIS-NINE FACTORS

Factors         Factor items                   Factor     Eigenvalue
                                               loadings   (% of
                                               [alpha]    variances)

Anonymity       Because I feel more free
                  making friends online than
                  in real life                 .70        1.05
                Because I want to talk with
                  someone who does not know               (3.63%)
                  who I am                     .71        [alpha] = .77
                Because I can talk to online
                  friends about anything       .78
                I can present the real me
                  when I make friends online   .68

Opportunity     Because I can expand my                   1.53
to meet new       social network               .72        (5.28%)
people          Because I can find friends                [alpha] = .66
                  with whom to go out          .74
                Because I can find friends
                  who share my interests       .77

Easy of         Because making friends                    7.94
communication     online is easy               .84        (27.38%)
                Because making friends                    [alpha] = .83
                  online is convenient         .89
                The interface for online
                  friend-making is easy
                  to use                       .76

Curiosity       My friends use the Internet
                  to make friends, so I                   2.02
                  want to try it               .69        (6.98%)
                Because I am curious about                [alpha] = .85
                  making friends online        .92
                Because making friends
                  online is new for me         .88

Emotional       Because making friends                    1.27
support           online comforts my spirit    .70        (4.37%)
                Because online friends are                [alpha] = .78
                  willing to listen to me      .69
                Because my online friends
                  help me calm my mind         .81

Social          Because I rarely interact                 1.65
compensation      with others in real life     .78        (5.69%)
                Because I cannot find                     [alpha] = .84
                  friends in other places      .83
                Because I do not have other
                  chances to make friends      .82

Away from the   Because there are many
real world        annoyances and troubles                 2.70
                  in real life                 .79        (9.30%)
                Because I want to escape my               [alpha] = .91
                  real life temporarily        .91
                Because I want to forget my
                  worries temporarily          .86

Love            Because I am looking for my               1.34
                  soul mate                    .78        (4.61%)
                Because I want to fall in                 [alpha] = .94
                  love with someone            .87
                Because I am looking for
                  wonderful romance            .85

Sexual          Because I am looking for a                3.55
partners          one-night stand              .96        (12.24%)
                Because I am looking for                  [alpha] = .98
                  sexual relations             .96
                Because I am looking for
                  cyber-sex                    .93
                Because I am looking for an
                  offline sexual partner       .94

TABLE 2
EXPLORATORY FACTOR ANALYSIS--THREE DIMENSIONS

Dimensions   Factor items           Factor    Eigenvalue   Percentage
                                   loadings                    of
                                                            variance

Adventure    Anonymity               .72         3.17        35.20
             Opportunity to meet     .58
               new people
             Easy to communicate     .67
             Curiosity               .59
             Emotional support       .70

Escape to    Social compensation     .81         1.22        13.55
a virtual    Escape from the         .66
world          real world

Romance      Love                    .67         1.06        11.73
             Sexual partners         .90

TABLE 3
CORRELATIONS AMONG THE NINE CYBER-RELATIONSHIP MOTIVE FACTORS

     F1     F2    F3     F4    F5    F6    F7    F8

F2    .35
F3    .29   .35
F4    .13   .17    .38
F5    .43   .37    .27   .26
F6    .18   .12    .06   .17   .19
F7    .12   .16    .07   .17   .24   .29
F8    .28   .16    .29   .31   .31   .28   .21
F9   -.04   .02   -.01   .12   .08   .26   .47   .11

Note: Anonymity (F1); Opportunity to meet new people (F2); Easy to
communicate (F3); Curiosity (F4); Emotional support (F5); Social
compensation (F6); Away from the real world (F7); Love (F8);
Sexual partners (F9).

TABLE 4
CORRELATIONS OF CYBER-RELATIONSHIP MOTIVES AND PASSION

                                   Passion

Adventure
  Anonymity                         .25 *
  Opportunity to meet new people    .32 *
  Easy to communicate               .16 *
  Curiosity                         .22 *
  Emotional support                 .47 *
Escape to a virtual world
  Social compensation               .41 *
  Away from the real world          .31 *
Romance
  Love                              .43 *
  Sexual partners                   .39 *

* significant at p < .05
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Author:Wang, Chih-Chien; Chang, Ya-Ting
Publication:Social Behavior and Personality: An International Journal
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Date:Apr 1, 2010
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