Existing literature on SNS have been reviewed, which include characteristics of SNS and the Web 2.0 computer-mediated environment which supports the concept of social networking. The literature also examines SNS-related areas such as social capital and how communities are formed around shared interests as instead of shared geography (Wellman, 1996), how SNS aid in the formation of bridging social capital (Ellison, Steinfield & Lampe, 2006). Other related SNS concepts which are covered include identity and self-presentation online (boyd, 2004; boyd & Donath, 2004), contextualizing in SNS (boyd & Heer, 2006; boyd, 2006) as well as privacy and surveillance in an online setting (Gross & Acquisiti, 2005; Vie, 2007).
The Uses and Gratifications (U&G) approach is used to as the theoretical framework for examining SNS in an online context. This is because the U&G approach has proven to be useful in the history of media in exploring how and why the public use certain media, especially when new communication technologies are introduced in society. This is relevant for SNS which have only caught on with certain segments of the population, namely the youth and young adults. SNS also exhibit a lot of potential for a relatively young technological application as an upcoming communication trend. Also, the nature of SNS, where members sign up for the websites seems to concur with the U&G assumption of the active audience (Levy & Windahl, 1984).
This is breaking new ground for U&G as this approach is applied to the internet, which is seen as new media vis a vis traditional media such as the newspapers and television which U&G has been applied to. Also, there are layers of technology to consider as we are not just dealing with the characteristics of the internet, but also inherent characteristics of the applications in SNS.
This therefore warrants a systematic approach in tackling the research questions put forth in this paper which seeks to address: What are the salient factors underlying Singaporean university students� use of SNS as well as whether different gratifications (expectations) linked to different usage patterns of SNS. Analyses so far have indicated interesting findings in terms of reasons why Singaporean university students use SNS and the link between internet usage patterns and SNS. Also, some of the findings in terms of homophily and the types of friendships formed in SNS are contrary to existing studies conducted in the West on SNS and youths, which warrants further investigation and discussion. It will be fascinating to see how these findings can be extrapolated to the Asia new media landscape.