Got friends? Now you can thank Facebook

Study finds that social networking actually improves face-to-face communication

Despite a widespread belief that social networks like Facebook and Myspace are isolating people from other humans, a new study found that the social networks more likely are helping to expand social circles.

The Pew Internet and American Life Project's Social Isolation and New Technology study , released this week, shows that Americans aren't as isolated due to technology use as previously thought . In fact, the study found that technology is helping, not hindering, our social lives.

The study notes that people who use social networks generally have a more diverse group of people to communicate with. And the study also showed that people who are active in online social networks are just as likely as anyone else to socialize with their neighbors and to be out and about in public places, such as cafes and parks.

"People's use of the mobile phone and the Internet is associated with larger and more diverse discussion networks," the report's researchers concluded. "And when we examine people's full personal network -- their strong and weak ties -- Internet use in general and use of social networking services, such as Facebook in particular, are associated with more diverse social networks."

Several other studies have popped up this year, showing that social networking sites don't have the best effects on users.

For example, an Annenberg Center for the Digital Future released in June showed that social networks like Facebook and Twitter are cutting into time people used to spend with their families. According to the center, based at the University of Southern California, the percentage of people who say they spend less time with family members because of Internet use nearly tripled from 11% in 2006 to 28% last year.

And a study released last month by London-based Morse PLC, an IT services and technology company, showed that employees who use Twitter and other social networks in the office are costing U.K. businesses about 1.38 billion pounds, or more than $2.25 billion a year.

And last spring, an Ohio State University study found that college students who use Facebook spend less time studying and have lower grades than students who don't use the popular social networking site.

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Sharon Gaudin

Computerworld (US)

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