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Comparing the Measurement of Different Social Networks: Peer Nominations, Online Communication, and Proximity Data (Preprint)


The current study compared peer nominated networks with more unobtrusive measures of peer connections: Online communication networks and proximity networks based on smartphones’ Bluetooth signals measuring peer proximity. The three networks were compared in coverage, stability, overlap, and criterion validity. Two samples were derived from the MyMovez project: a longitudinal sample of 444 adolescents and a cross-sectional sample of 774 adolescents. Participants received a research smartphone for one or three weeks. On this smartphone, participants received peer nomination questions. In addition, the smartphone scanned for other smartphones via Bluetooth signal every 15 minutes of the day. In the second sample, participants could chat with peers on the research smartphone. The results show that nominated networks provided data for the most participants compared to the other two networks, but in these networks participants had the lowest number of connections with peers. The overlap between the three networks was rather small, indicating that the networks measured different type of connections. The communication and proximity network seem promising unobtrusive measures of peer connections and are less of a burden to the participant compared to a nominated network. However, the communication and proximity networks should not be used as direct substitutes for sociometric nominations.