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?