Researchers smile on Facebook

Social networking sites help maintain relations and not time waste, says report

While Facebook continues to cop a lot of negative press, a recent study looks at the brighter sides to the social networking site that everyone is talking about.

The study, published in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, concluded that overall, Facebook had a lot to offer students as well as professionals, researchers, and the general population.

"The strong linkage between Facebook use and high school connections suggests how social networking sites help maintain relations as people move from one offline community to another," states the report.

"It may facilitate the same when students graduate from college, with alumni keeping their school email address and using Facebook to stay in touch with the college community. Such connections could have strong payoffs in terms of jobs, internships, and other opportunities. Colleges may want to explore ways to encourage this sort of usage."

The report authors suggest that online social network sites may play a role different from that described in early (critical) literature on virtual communities.

"Online interactions do not necessarily remove people from their offline world but may indeed be used to support relationships and keep people in contact, even when life changes move them away from each other. In addition to helping student populations, this use of technology could support a variety of populations, including professional researchers, neighborhood and community members, employees of companies, or others who benefit from maintained ties," they write.

By 2007, Facebook, which was created in 2004, was reported to have more than 21 million registered members generating 1.6 billion page views each day. According to the report, the site is tightly integrated into the daily media practices of its users: The typical user spends about 20 minutes a day on the site, and two-thirds of users log in at least once a day.

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Dahna McConnachie

Computerworld

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