Social networking is good for you. That appears to be the conclusion of a study of Facebook users by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, which surveyed the emotional lives and engagement of US social networking fans.
The report found them to be more trusting, more socially and politically engaged and to have a better sense of well-being than those who don’t participate in online social networks.
The study of 2,255 respondents found that 79 per cent of American adults said they used the internet and that almost 60 per cent of those used social networks – double the usage rate of 2008.
Facebook users were 43 per cent more likely than other internet users and more than three times as likely as non-internet users to feel that most people can be trusted, the study found.
Facebook users also have more close relationships and enjoy more social support – both online and offline – than most Americans, and are also more politically engaged.
According to the survey, the average Facebook user has 229 Facebook friends and only 3 per cent of these are people they have never met in person. Only 7 per cent are people that they have only met once.
The findings undercut common perceptions that online social networking comes at the expense of real-world interactions.
“We’ve found the exact opposite,” said University of Pennsylvania professor Keith Hampton, the lead author of the report.
Hampton also said that the findings indicated a major gulf between those who used social networks and those who didn’t. “The real digital divide today is a social network divide,” he said.