Back in 2006 we were told that technology and the Internet were ruining our social lives. Our attachment to our smartphones and the increasing amount of time we spent staring at screens were alienating us from our families, friends and neighbors. We were in danger of becoming socially isolated. The size of our discussion networks were said to be declining. And our networks weren’t just smaller, they were less diverse. The evil technology was not only rotting our brains, it was weakening our links to the people in our lives. Maybe we didn’t even have people in our lives anymore. Well, you can forget that.
Recent studies from the vaunted Pew Research Center show that those 2006 ideas are so 2006. It shows that Facebook users have more close relationships than other Internet users who don’t have Facebook friends. An engaged Facebook user averages nine percent more close ties. Additionally, Facebook users get more emotional support and offline help when needed than others. While it may be better to give than to receive, the Pew Center says that Facebook users receive more than they give. This is mostly measured in friend requests received, content liked and photos tagged. Most recently, Facebook users can receive gifts – presumably from Facebook givers?
A person on Facebook averages about 229 friends, says the Pew research. They also average seven new friends by initiating three requests and accepting four each month. The mean size of friends by generation indicates that Millenials are at 318 friends, Gen X are at 197 and Boomers aged 47 – 56 are at 155 friends. Perhaps it’s a bit of a surprise to many that the mean size of friends for people over 75 is 42 – and they’re not mean friends either. Who would have guessed? Even more, it turns out that 80 percent of friend requests are accepted, though it isn’t clear how many are unfriended fairly soon thereafter. Finally, 22 percent of Facebook friends are from high school – perhaps because the users are younger.