Social Media Users Have More & Better Friendships

BetterFriends How’s that for a sensational headline? The nice part is that we have data to back it up. The good people at the Pew Research Center have delivered a giant lump of coal to the curmudgeonly masses who deride those of us who utilize and enjoy social media, positing that we do nothing but sit at home in pajamas and have inauthentic relationships with people online. It turns out that we are not the cyber-mole people that they would like to think. In fact, Pew’s research shows that our time online not only translates to more offline (ie – in-person) relationships, but that the enmeshment of our online and offline lives may well lead to not just more connections, but closer ones that benefit our lives.

As researcher Nathan Jurgenson points out on his Cyborgology blog, Pew asserts that, “controlling for other factors, we found that someone who uses Facebook several times per day averages 9% more close, core ties in their overall social network compared with other internet users.” Jurgenson calls this disconnect between perception and reality “digital dualism”, and argues, in the pieces I’ve read, that there is a more seamless relationship between our digital and physical worlds.

I’ve had several clients ask how social media can engage people not just online, but in taking action in “the real world.” I begin by suggesting that their definition of “real” may need review, and that when something holds value or meaning or offers a benefit to a person, or to their peers, they are often as likely to take action in physical space as well as digital space. Telling stories and delivering messages digitally can have a seamless transition to physical space if an authentic connection and benefit are attached. What’s more, as we can see from the Pew data, is that those who are actively engaged in social media may well hold more authoritative places in sharing messages, because they have developed a greater number of close, core relationships.

It is, of course, essential that we respect peoples’ relationships if we are to earn any trust from those with whom we wish to communicate. More on that in an upcoming post about how people just love being lied to. In the meantime, check out the Pew info, and spend some time with Cyborgology.