Facebook makes people more social: study

NEW YORK Tue Nov 23, 2010 2:41pm EST

A Facebook page is displayed on a computer screen in Brussels, April 21, 2010. REUTERS/Thierry Roge

A Facebook page is displayed on a computer screen in Brussels, April 21, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Thierry Roge

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Contrary to common belief social media websites such as Facebook do not weaken personal ties, they strengthen them in unique ways for different age groups, according to a new study.

The rapid spread of Facebook, which has more than 500 million users worldwide, has prompted concerns about its negative effects, but researchers at the University of Texas have reached a different conclusion.

"Our findings suggest that Facebook is not supplanting face-to-face interactions between friends, family and colleagues," said S. Craig Watkins, an associate professor of radio, TV and film who headed the research team.

"In fact, we believe there is sufficient evidence that social media afford opportunities for new expressions of friendship, intimacy and community."

The researchers questioned 900 college students and recent graduates about how and with whom they interact on Facebook.

More than 60 percent of Facebook users said posting status updates was among the most popular activities, followed by 60 percent who wrote comments on their profile and 49 percent who posted messages and comments to friends.

The researchers also found that although about the same number of men and women use Facebook, they do so in different ways.

"There is a noteworthy difference in orientation in how to use a tool like Facebook. We found that for women the content tends to be more affectionate, and (they) are especially interested in using it for connection," said Watkins.

"For men, it's more functional," he added.

Watkins pointed out that, for example, women are more likely to post pictures of social gatherings with friends, while men are more likely to post pictures of hobbies, or post a political or pop-culture related link.

He added that increased use of Facebook brings additional challenges as young adults are forced to adapt their Facebook behavior to an increasingly large social circle.

"Facebook brings all our different networks and social scenes together. We present ourselves in different ways, whether to friends, co-workers, or family," he said. "Facebook engagement is not uniform. It's constantly evolving and in a state of flux, and that presents a challenge."

(Reporting by Bernd Debusmann Jr; Editing by Patricia Reaney)

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Comments (4)
dbobsnodgrass wrote:
900 college aged people does not ‘contrary to anything’.

Nov 23, 2010 5:09pm EST  --  Report as abuse
socratesfoot wrote:
Interesting comment related to this. My daughter was studying South Africa in school and got the white washed, plain vanilla, version of history about Nelson Mandela,anti-apartheid laws, attempts at peace etc. (All very boring fro her) But we met a South African online and she was able to get a very different version of conditions in Africa, what it is like to live there, and the real state of the world all through social networking. It was very exciting.

Nov 24, 2010 11:11am EST  --  Report as abuse
AshleyD wrote:
This makes sense from the obvious perspective – Facebook has allowed us to easily keep in touch with friends and family from all over the country.

But less obviously, social media reminds us of the rules of building relationships. For instance, when starting a Twitter account, everyone wants a bevy of followers. Some people think they can turn to forced wittiness and overshare, which ultimately turns people off – as in offline life.

The people who are successful (and non-celebrities) build a following by not only doing the talking, but listening, engaging, following up, and overall just keeping in touch with others. The same qualities needed to build relationships offline.

Nov 25, 2010 10:42pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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