Sunday, July 24, 2011

Being Social Online Means Being Social In Life

As a proponent of social media, I am often met by those who have not joined these waters with comments like:
  • "Students can't even learn to speak properly to each other face-to-face. We need to get that straight before we focus on communicating online."
  • "If I want to speak to someone, I'll pick up the phone or make a plan to meet them."
  • "I prefer real connections."
  • "Social media is making people less social. They don't go out in the real world anymore."
My response is generally that our online behavior is usually an extension of our f2f behavior and that social media doesn't change that, rather it offers new ways to connect.  Well our friends at Pew Internet & American Life Project released a new report about Social networking sites and our lives which supports beliefs like mine and disputes the perceptions of the nay sayers.  

In the report they answer whether or not social networking hindered off line activity and interactions.  The answer is clear, it most certainly does not.  Not only do social networks fail to retard offline growth, they actually help users develop connections and form stronger relationships in the real world.

Here are some of the interesting stats revealed in the report.  
  • Only 3% of users’ Facebook friends have never met in person.  While 89% of all Facebook friends have met in person more than once.
  • Internet users have a much more diverse network than those who don’t use the internet.  
  • The average user of a social networking site has more close ties than a non-Internet user and is half as likely to be socially isolated as the average American.
  • Users are more trusting of others than non-Internet users.
  • Social networking users may have more of a life than non-internet users.  A higher percentage of users partake in a community group, sports league or youth group than a non-internet user.
  • Users are more likely to know their neighbors’ names than non-internet users
The next time a nay sayer tells you why social networking online doesn’t lead to social development in life, you can give em the stats that say otherwise.  

Read Full Report


  1. Interesting post. It's probably a challenge for many people to relate to social media, but I would expect that educators have unique challenges. That is, all of their students (depending on the age) and many of their parents are deeply involved with social media.

    It should be part of the core curriculum for educators to become masters of social media channels. Not just proficient, but masters. It is a channel of communications that will continue to grow rapidly, so they must speak the language of their students and utilize it to drive home educational points.

    Good post.


  2. This makes a lot of sense dude. WOw.

  3. There is no comparison to have a chat, drinking a coffee, and sharing time just talking about different things.. that is life.. but unfortunately, our students don't do that, and the computer is the only connection to the world, but what world? a real world?

  4. @Julian- I think that your statement is a pretty massive generalization to say a) that "our students don't do that", and b) that any of us at our students' age necessarily sat together pontificating the niceties of life over coffee either before SM or after.

    I totally get what you mean- that the human connection is one that is near impossible to replace. I just think we over-romanticize the past while underestimating the present.

    When I was younger, we didn't have those chats over coffee- we had them in a friend's bedroom during a sleepover, or on their porch on those nights where there "wasn't anything to do". Kids still do that today- ask any of your students. The "long talks over coffee" came up during college for me- asking some of my former students, the same goes for them today.

    In my experience (as is described in the post), most kids don't seem to rely on SM like Facebook as their only means of social interaction. Rather, they use these tools to stay connected w/more people, That way, on those days where they're looking to "hang", they have a relatively large network of folks with which to do so. My 2 cents, not gospel or anything.

  5. Tony, I think you made me realize I was generalizing an idea, that maybe, it is not massive. But what I just said it is based on what I see in my own students. Because if they have a free time, and you give them the chance to choose what they want to do, they will inmediately choose to go to the computers lab. and of course, facebook will be the first page they will open. And yes, as you say, it can sound over-romanticize. But, if you have a problem, and you feel down, or crying, you don't need just nice words with cute emoticons, you need someone at your side, someone who can hug you, and that you really feel there is someone supporting you.
    You are right though, because the way of communicating is changing, and we must accept it as a way of being in contact with others.
    But my concern is that maybe, we have lost in someway, the real contact with other people.
    Tony, thanks for discussing an interesting topic.

  6. I am a college student and an education major currently taking a technology class. Specifically an assistive technology class. I thought this post was really interesting and I think this is a topic that is debated a lot. Personally, I agree with what it is saying about being social in the real world, yet I can understand how others feel it makes more of a disconnect than a connection. I feel that learning online social skills is very important and it gives one an opportunity to make connections that could not have been made (or at least would have been difficult) to make in real life. For example, I am working on my Professional Learning Network and am making connections with teachers and other professionals and I am able to ask them advice and their opinions on different things. I would not be able to do that without access to social networks and blogs and such.

    Thanks for the great post!

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