A few weeks ago, the folks at Pew Internet released a study: Social Networking Sites and Our Lives. The study comes on the heels of recent claims that social networks have a negative effect on our ability to trust and connect with others both online and offline.

Facebook and the Close Factor

Here’s a quick peek at some of the findings specific to Facebook:

· A Facebook user who uses the site multiple times per day is 43 percent 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.

· Someone who uses Facebook several times per day averages nine percent closer core ties in their overall social network compared with other Internet users.

· A Facebook user who uses the site multiple times per day tends to score an additional five points higher in total support, emotional support and companionship than Internet users of similar demographic characteristics.

What the Pew study highlights is that for some users, social networks remove barriers to forming close and trusting relationships. Real connection with someone is only a click away. Or is it?

These findings counter a flood of recent stories about social networks and isolation. In her new book “Alone Together,” Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) professor Sherry Turkle warns us that: “Social networks are more like mutual isolation networks that detach people from meaningful interactions with one another and make them less human.”

The proof to support her theory: Media coverage of the death in Brighton, England of Simone Back focused on a suicide note she had posted on Facebook that was seen by many of her 1,048 “friends” on the site. Yet none contacted her or the authorities for help. And, Dr. Turkle is not alone in her criticism. More than a dozen books have been published in the last six months on isolation in the social media age.

So which is it? Is Facebook the great social equalizer that lets us easily connect and share with others to form relationships? Or does it provide such a flood of information that it is too hard to tell what is real and meaningful dialogue—thereby inspiring apathy? Let me know what you think. Have you personally, or for a client, used social media to connect people? Or do you feel we have become all type and less talk?

Colleen Nolan
Colleen Nolan

Colleen is an advocate at heart who believes that with the right message and motivation anything is possible. A strategic campaign designer and communicator, she is skilled at defining and analyzing a desired result, and then developing the marketing and communications pathway to achieve success. Colleen quickly makes an intellectual and emotional connection with key audiences and uses these skills to craft communications programs that have strong resonance and dramatic impact.

Colleen has 20+ years experience in engagement, issue management, community building and mobilization.