Pew report: Facebook users have a higher degree of social well-being
In just seven years, Facebook has connected one-eleventh of the world on a single website whose population is now nearly twice as large as the United States.
By way of explanation, Mark Zuckerberg says people just naturally become more engaged when their friends are involved.
So it probably comes as no surprise to the folks at Facebook that a new survey has found that the number of people on social networking sites has more than doubled since 2008 and that people with Facebook accounts have a higher degree of social well-being than those without.
Among the findings of a phone survey of 2,255 American adults conducted by Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project last fall: Facebook users are more trusting of other people, they have larger numbers of close friends, they exhibit a higher level of civic engagement and they get more social support from their friends.
The survey's findings challenge the common perception that social networking sites isolate people or undercut their real-world friendships and interactions, said University of Pennsylvania professor Keith Hampton, the lead author of the report.
"We've found the exact opposite," he said.
In fact, Facebook has become so integral to the social fabric of American life that:
-- Someone who logs into Facebook multiple times a day is 43% more likely than other Internet users and more than three times as likely as someone who does not use the Internet to feel that most people can be trusted.
-- Someone who uses Facebook several times per day averages 9% more close, core ties in their overall social network compared with other Internet users.
-- Someone who visits the site multiple times a day was two and a half times more likely to attend a political rally or meeting, 57% more likely to persuade someone to vote for a candidate and 43% more likely to have said they would vote.
Facebook dominates social networking sites in the Pew survey: 92% of users are on Facebook, 29% use MySpace, 18% use LinkedIn and 13% use Twitter.
On an average day, 15% of Facebook users update their own status; 22% comment on a friend's post or status, 20% comment on a friend's photos, 26% "like" a friend's content, and 10% send another friend a private message.
One disturbing finding: The social fallout from the digital divide. People who are not online have the smallest social networks, are more socially isolated, get the least amount of social support and are least likely to vote, Hampton said.
"The real digital divide today is a social network divide," he said.
-- Jessica Guynn
Photo credit: Saeed Khan AFP / Getty Images