I Facebook, therefore I…

Apparently, I am more likely to be female, over 35, trusting, politically active, to have close relationships, and more social support. Is it because I am friendly, sociable and gullible? 😉

Or it is because I am on Facebook?

These are the assertions of a recent Pew Report – Social networking and our lives (Hampton, Goulet, Rainie & Purcell, 2011), which surveyed 2,255 adults to explore “how people’s trust, personal relationships, and civic and political involvement are connected to their use of social networking sites and other technologies”.

The paper seems to fly in the face of the usual media suspects who often claim that social networking leads to narrow, superficial, stunted relationships, lacking in diversity. On the contrary, the survey seems to suggest that regular involvement in social media sites is reflective of the opposite – civically engaged, connected, social beings. There is even an interesting discussion about MySpace and ‘perspective taking’, which might suggest that such spaces are not the closed echo chambers that we might assume.

And apparently it doesn’t make us dumb, either. When exploring how strong  the relationship is between internet use and the diversity of people’s overall social networks, they concluded that:
Education is the best predictor of a diverse social network. Each year of education is associated with 1.5 additional points on the diversity scale. From this perspective, internet users have a boost in network diversity that is equivalent to about two years of formal education, bloggers have a boost of about four years.”

So all that blogging does pay off.

But I am still left wondering: is it the technology at play here – or are those people who are active in these networks those early-adopter, more socially-brave types that would have wide, active networks anyway?

Can you ‘do’ social media if you’re not very social?

[Image source: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=2125]

9 thoughts on “I Facebook, therefore I…

  1. Nice questions – I certainly know people who are as social offline as they are online, but the majority are a little less chatty. That nice little ‘curtain’ which social provides enables users to be more engaging methinks, following the digital breadcrumbs (which, if made real, they would think twice about) and simply being more open to critique (both towards others and others of them).

    Then again, what do I know… 🙂

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    • I think there’s some truth in that comment about open to critique. It’s an interesting point you make – that social media can somehow shield us from revealing ourselves completely, and we can smehow be someone else. Shelley Turkle is interested in what happens to our identities online – and that we’re not always being true to ourselves (TEDxUIUC)…www.youtube.com/watch?v=MtLVCpZIiNs

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  2. I don’t know about you but I have quite a percentage of facebook friends who are hardly ever there, and having talked about it they tend to be the people who dont highly value technological interactions. They mainly belong to be able to access things like photos etc. And so I think generalisations are tricky but for me I believe I am more social because of Facebook – it helps me maintain relationships I wouldn’t have the time or energy to manage at the same degree in real life. I can post an update that a whole group of online friends can see rather than have to explain it over and over again. It helps me keep up with details that otherwise could easily be missed, new babies, new jobs, new homes, illness, bereavements. In real life (and in the past) some of those contacts would gradually fade away as we lost touch. So many of our friendships begin in contexts were we see each other frequently and many dont survive particularly well as life journey’s diverge. Facebook helps stop that.
    Plus as we have noticed during coffee catchups when I’m in NZ it helps fill the gap so when we do get the quality time in real life we don’t have to explain a whole lot of detail and can move straight in to value add discussion. And I also have friends who are better friends thanks to the discussions we have had about common interests revealed via social media.

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  3. A detailed and honest picture, Sonja:-) I can relate to the idea of checking in with friends more frequently than we might otherwise, especially those far away, from the past or traveling. A devil’s advocate (or luddite!) might argue that if friendships drift, that is for a reason, and FB just perpetuates friendships beyond their natural sell-by-date;-) But we have busy lives so the tech can extend relationships in ways not managed before. Which I, for one, like.
    Thanks for taking the time to stop by:-)

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  4. Karen thank you for that , it is interesting to read. Social Networks when I was young referred to sport or playing outside – as an older teacher I am mindful of the many hundreds of children who found the library and a good book as way to be home at school. It was acceptable and fine not to be social. The argument suppositions may be contrived to support a view of sociable behaviour that is normative.

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  5. I think social behaviour is normative in online social networks, and it doesn’t preclude having offline relationships. Nor does the existence of social networks mean that people have to be social. People can still be quiet, alone, meditative……and I think it is important to be able to be so.

    I do wonder, though, if there might be a social divide, as more information streams out through spaces that rely on certain ‘socially normative’ behaviours….it’s a good question to mull over.

    Your comment is an important reminder of the ideologies that can sit behind types of technologies – and that we must not make assumptions about others’ ways of being. Thank you.

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  6. Pingback: If I want to be alone, will you think I’m weird? | at the virtual chalkface

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