Social relationships are, arguably, the most valuable assets and investments people accrue in the course of a lifetime. We rely on our relationships for getting through the routines of daily life, yet we often lose touch with many friends and acquaintances over the years. New communication technologies such as social network sites (SNSs) enable people not only to maintain existing active relationships, but also to re-activate relationships that may have lapsed over time. In fact, searching for people with whom one has lost touch is most common type of social searching that people do on SNSs. Yet we do not know why people seek out such ties and whether they benefit from them. This paper presents findings from a qualitative study of how people in Russia and Kazakhstan used SNSs for communication and relational maintenance. For many of the participants SNSs had offered an opportunity for reconnection with lapsed ties that brought about deeply emotional experiences of nostalgic remembrances and intimate exchanges of current status. In this process of reconnecting, they established connections not only with each other but also with a kind of past that was long gone. These ties were not expected to function as social resources or as active providers of support. In many ways, these ties explicitly lacked a purpose beyond emotional remembrance, as they were rarely re-integrated into daily life. Nevertheless, these ties remained connections to a past even as they at times became digital connections to a distant land in the present.
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A decade in Internet time - the Oxford Internet Institute, 2011