Pew Research Gives Us Hints About the Impact of Social Media on Our Lives

“Social media is changing our lives” is not exactly news. However, the exact nature of these changes can be hard to track. A new study gives us a glimpse into the Internet lives of Americans in the first half of the second decade of the new millennia

“Social media is changing our lives” is not exactly news. However, the exact nature of these changes can be hard to track. A new study gives us a glimpse into the Internet lives of Americans in the first half of the second decade of the new millennia.

The Pew Internet and American Life Project released a study titled “Social networking sites and our lives” on June 16th, 2011. Authors Keith Hampton, Lauren Sessions Goulet, Lee Rainie, Kristen Purcell released findings which “explore[s] people’s overall social networks and how use of these technologies is related to trust, tolerance, social support, and community and political engagement.” The study was based on telephone interviews done by Princeton Survey Research Associated International in late 2010. All interviews were in English, and 2,255 adults were surveyed in total.

What does the survey tell us? Broadly, the survey reveals that most Americans are using the Internet. Nearly 80% of all American adults report using the Internet. Of these internet users 47% of adult report using at least one social networking site.  The moral of this story is simple: social networking use has almost doubled since 2008. In 2008, only 26% of adults used social networks.

So, is one social networking site more used than the rest? It is, and, as you may already have guessed, that social networking site is Facebook. A whopping 92% of social networking users are on Facebook. Poor MySpace pales in comparison; only 29% of social networking users reported using MySpace. Interestingly, more contemporary sites like LinkedIn and Twitter also show much lower use than Facebook. 18% of Internet users reported using LinkedIn while 13% reported using Twitter.

The survey reveals particularly interesting data about Facebook use. According to the survey:

“On Facebook on an average day:

  • 15% of Facebook users update their own status.
  • 22% comment on another’s post or status.
  • 20% comment on another user’s photos.
  • 26% “Like” another user’s content.
  • 10% send another user a private message”

However, the most interesting assertions made by the study concern the relationships and Facebook users. Facebook users are, apparently, more trusting than others online. It follows that Facebook users also tend to report a stronger support system complete with closer relationships.  According to the study, most Americans report having roughly two confidants (a confidant is defined as someone with whom they discuss important matters), and the study “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.”

Moreover, Facebook users are reportedly more politically engaged, more likely to keep up closer ties, and more likely to re-connect with old friends. Sounds like Facebook is doing a lot of good, doesn’t it?

The positive impact of social networking is, in its own way, quite significant. So often we relate social media to business and news; however, it’s easy to forget the way that social media impacts our daily lives and our personal relationships. While Twitter and Facebook conventions are often mocked for causing a decline in our “real-life” communication skills, this study seems to suggest that social networking has several extremely positive impacts on our life.

So, go on, update your status! There may be debate about whether it’s making the world a better place, but it might very well be making your world a better place.