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Study: Facebook is good for your social life

Posted July 14, 2014

New study shows that use of such social networks as Facebook or Twitter is good for your social life. Fabian Sabatini working at Sapienza University of Rome and Francesco Sarracino working at GESIS Leibniz-Institute for the Social Sciences claim that Internet use is more likely to support – rather than destroy – sociability and face-to-face interactions.

Image credit: Derzsi Elekes Andor, CC BY-SA 3.0

Image credit: Derzsi Elekes Andor, CC BY-SA 3.0

Political scientist Robert Putnam popularized idea that social capital is declining in the Western countries. His thesis was supported by numerous empirical studies. Interestingly, previous research, which explored a relationship between Internet use and social capital, suggested that web use exhibits a detrimental effect on social interactions. However, these explorations were carried out before rise of online social networks.

In order to figure out their impact on sociability and trust researchers analyzed data from a recent nationally representative survey conducted by the Italian National Institute of Statistics. “This survey contains detailed information on Internet use – with special regard to participation in online networks such as Facebook and Twitter – and the different dimensions of social capital,” the economists say.

Sabatini and Sarracino discovered that the use of Facebook and Twitter has a positive influence on offline interactions. “This result contradicts cross-sectional analyses conducted from the late 1990s to the first half of 2000s which argued that time spent browsing the web was positively related to loneliness and negatively related to life-satisfaction,” they write.

Interestingly, online social networks not only enable to preserve old connections, but also allow to activate the latent ones. Interactions with people who have similar goals or interests are encouraged. The scholars discovered that social networks use has a stronger impact on individuals who are over thirty years old. It is probably related to the fact that younger individuals have more opportunities for social interaction.

However, there is danger that widespread of social networks can reduce the level of trust. Firstly, this observation can be related to the fact that online discussions involve more diverse public than offlline meetings. “Empirical studies have shown that, at least in the short run, diversity along ethnic, religious, age, and socio-economic status lines may be a powerful source of frustration and distrust towards unknown others,” the scientists explain. Secondly, it can be explained by the fact that people are more agressive towards unknown others, especially woman, on the Internet.

Article: Sabatini, Fabio ; Sarracino, Francesco ; GESIS – Leibniz-Institut für Sozialwissenschaften (Ed.): Will Facebook save or destroy social capital? An empirical investigation into the effect of online interactions on trust and networks. Mannheim, 2014. Source link.

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