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The Online Mom provides internet technology advice and information to help parents protect their kids, encourage responsible behavior and safely harness the power of technology in the new digital world. Social networking, photo sharing, video games, IM & texting, internet security, cyberbullying, educational resources, the latest on tech hardware, gadgets and software for kids 3-8, tweens and teens, and more.

Study finds Facebook users have more friendships

Ever since online social networking became popular, there have been two conflicting views about its impact on personal relationships. The first view suggests that Facebook and other social networks encourage and strengthen friendships, allowing users to better express themselves and become more at ease in sharing their thoughts and emotions.

A second viewpoint is not so positive, claiming that Facebook actually diminishes friendships and isolates users, replacing the genuine interaction of a face-to-face relationship with a series of banal posts and superficial “news updates.”

But now a new study from the Pew Research Center appears to support the more positive outlook, finding that Facebook users have on average more close relationships than non-Facebook users, and that social networks are increasingly important in nurturing those relationships.

According to the study, the average American has 634 “social ties” in their overall network of friends and contacts (not just on social networks). This breaks down to about 506 ties for non-internet users and 669 ties for those who use the internet.

As one might expect, the more someone uses the internet, the more social ties that person tends to have. The average person who uses the internet at home several times per day has a network of 732 ties, while someone who only goes online about once per day has an average of 616 ties. Likewise, those people who own a mobile phone have an average of 664 ties, a figure that that increases to 717 ties if they own a smartphone.

Although it can be argued that “ties” don’t necessarily equate to friendships, Pew found that Americans actually have more close friends than they did two years ago, due mostly to the influx of those very same smartphones and social networking sites like Facebook.

The average American has 2.16 close friends that they can confide in, up from 1.93 in 2008. Pew points to Facebook, in particular, as a driving force in gaining and retaining close friendships. Regular Facebook users have 9 percent more close friendships than any other group.

In addition, Pew found that there is little truth in the suggestion that Facebook users with large numbers of friends don’t know who half of those friends are; only a small fraction of Facebook friends are people whom users have never met or met only once.

In other findings, Pew noted that Facebook users tend to be more trusting, have more social support, and more politically engaged when compared with non-users of a similar age and background.

Do you agree that Facebook users have more genuine friendships? Share your thoughts with The Online Mom!

Comment by DebbieLB, posted 6/18/2011, 11:25 AM:

I don't know that I totally agree with the Pew Research Center in much of their research, but I do think that FB can enhance social relationships. I think a kid who is tempted to lock themselves in their room and pull away from social situations will do so whether they have FB or not! But at least some online interaction may draw them into what is going on outside their bedroom door. The bottom line...parents! Make sure they're not isolating themselves. @DebbieLB
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