You Are Not Alone Online: A Case Study of a Long Distance Romantic Relationship Online Community

  • Yurong He
  • Kari Kraus
  • Jennifer Preece
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 8029)


Previous research on long distance romantic relationships (LDRRs) has tended to focus on the two people that make up the couple. With the advent of LDRR online communities, however, there is a need to expand the analysis to include larger social structures. Currently little is known about how and why individuals who are in LDRRs use LDRR online communities and what effect participating in this kind of public online space has on maintaining LDRRs. In this paper, we introduce a popular Chinese LDRR online community, the LDRR public page on Chinese Facebook, Renren, and report exploratory interviews conducted with users of this community to understand their behaviors and motivations for using it. We found that: 1) users lurk most of the time unless their strong empathy is aroused; 2) users’ four major motivations are belonging, empathy, social support, and learning; 3) initial and continued motivations have different patterns; 4) perceived social support is the main benefit of participating in the LDRR public page.


Long-distance romantic relationships Online community Renren Public page Motivation 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Aylor, B.: Maintaining long-distance relationships. In: Canary, D.J., Dainton, M. (eds.) Maintaining Relationships Through Communication: Relational, Contextual, and Cultural Variations, pp. 127–140. Lawrence Erlbaum, Mahwah (2003)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Bales, E., Li, K.A., Griswold, W.: CoupleVIBE: Mobile implicit communication to improve awareness for (long-distance) couples. In: Proc. CSCW 2011. ACM Press (2011)Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Baumeister, R.F., Leary, M.R.: The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin 117, 497–529 (1995)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Bhandari, S., Bardzell, S.: Bridging gaps: affective communication in long distance relationships. Ext. Abstracts CHI 2008, pp. 2763–2768. ACM Press (2008)Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Glaser, B.G., Strauss, A.L.: The Discovery of Grounded Theory: Strategies for Qualitative Research. Sociology Press, Chicago (1967)Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Goette, L., Huffman, D., Meier, S.: The Impact of Social Ties on Group Interactions: Evidence from Minimal Groups and Randomly Assigned Real Groups. American Economic Journal: Microeconomics 4(1), 101–115 (2011)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Goffman, E.: The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Doubleday, New York (1959)Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Gooch, D., Watts, L.: The Magic Sock Drawer project. Ext. Abstracts CHI 2011, pp. 243–252. ACM Press (2011)Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Goodman, E., Misilim, M.: The Sensing Bed. In: Proc. UbiComp 2003 Workshop (2003)Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Guldner, G.T.: Long-distance romantic relationships: Prevalence and separation-related symptoms in college students. Journal of College Student Development 37, 289–296 (1996)Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Heaney, C.A., Israel, B.A.: Social networks and social support. In: Glanz, K., Rimer, B.K., Lewis, F.M. (eds.) Health Behavior and Health Education: Theory, Research, and Practice, 4th edn., pp. 185–209. Joseey-Bass, San Francisco (2008)Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Hill, C.E., Thompson, B.J., Williams, E.N.: A guide to conducting consensual qualitative research. The Counseling Psychologist 25, 517–572 (1997)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Johnson, A.J., Haigh, M., Becker, J., Craig, E., Wigley, S.: College Students’ Use of Relational Management Strategies in Email in Long-Distance and Geographically Close Relationships. Journal of Computer Mediated Communication 13, 381–404 (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Kaye, J.J., Levitt, M.K., Nevins, J., Golden, J., Schmidt, V.: Communicating intimacy one bit at a time. Ext. Abstracts CHI 2005, pp. 1529–1532. ACM Press (2005)Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Levenson, R.W., Ruef, A.M.: Empathy: A Physiological Substrate. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 63, 234–246 (1992)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Marcus, M.A., Westra, H.A., Eastwood, J.D., Barnes, K.L.: What Are Young Adults Saying About Mental Health? An Analysis of Internet Blogs. Journal of Medical Internet Research 14(1) (2012)Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Neustaedter, C., Greenberg, S.: Intimacy in Long-Distance Relationships over Video Chat Research Report 2011-1014-26, Department of Computer Science, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada T2N 1N4 (August 2011) Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Neustaedter, C., Greenberg, S.: Intimacy in Long-Distance Relationships over Video Chat. In: Proc. CHI 2012. ACM Press (2012)Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Pfeil, U.: Online support communities. In: Zaphiris, P., Ang, C.S. (eds.) Social Computing & Virtual Communities, Taylor and Francis, Boca Raton (2010)Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Preece, J., Nonneke, B., Andrews, D.: The top five reasons for lurking: Improving community experience for everyone. Computers in Human Behavior 20, 201–223 (2004)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Ren, Y., Kraut, R., Kiesler, S.: Applying common identity and bond theory to design of online communities. Organization Studies 28(3), 377–408 (2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Stafford, L., Merolla, A.J., Castle, J.D.: When long-distance dating partners become geographically close. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships 23, 901–919 (2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Stafford, L.: Maintaining long-distance and cross-residential relationships. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Mahwah (2005)Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Stafford, L., Merolla, A.J.: Idealization, reunions, and stability in long-distance dating relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships 24, 37–54 (2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Statistic Brain. Long Distance Relationship Statistics (2012) ,
  26. 26.
    Strauss, A.L., Corbin, J.: Basics of Qualitative Research: Techniques and Procedures for Developing Grounded Theory, 2nd edn. Sage, Thousand Oaks (1998)Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Sprecher, S., Felmlee, D., Orbuch, T.L., Willetts, M.C.: Social networks and change in personal relationships. In: Vangelisti, A., Reis, H.T., Fitzpatrick, M.A. (eds.) Stability and Change in Relationships, pp. 257–284. Cambridge University Press, New York (2002)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Thoits, P.: Stress, coping, and social support processes: where are we? What next? Journal of Health and Social Behavior, Extra Issue, 53–79 Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Utz, S., Beukeboom, C.: The role of social network sites in romantic relationships: Effects on jealousy and relationship happiness. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 16, 511–527 (2011)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Vetere, F., Gibbs, M.R., Kjeldskov, J., et al.: Mediating intimacy: technologies to support strongtie relationships. In: Proc. of CHI 2005, pp. 471–480. ACM Press (2005)Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Westefeld, J.S., Liddell, D.: Coping with long-distance relationships. Journal of College Student Development 23, 550–551 (1982)Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Xie, B.: Multimodal Computer-Mediated Communication and Social Support among Older Chinese. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 13(3), 728–750 (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Yin, L.J.: Communication Channels, Social Support and Satisfaction in Long Distance Romantic Relationships. Communication Theses (2009),
  34. 34.
    Zhao, X., Schwanda Sosik, V., Cosley, D.: It’s complicated: how romantic partners use facebook. In: Proc. CHI 2012, pp. 771–780. ACM Press (2012)Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Bernard, H.: Research Methods in Anthropology: Qualitative and Quantitative Methods, 5th edn. Altamira Press (2011)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yurong He
    • 1
  • Kari Kraus
    • 1
  • Jennifer Preece
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Information Studies, Human-Computer Interaction LabUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA

Personalised recommendations