Debunking a popular belief that use of social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter alienates people from friends and family, a new study claims that this is not the case.
The researchers found no evidence for the proposition that social media reduces face-to-face communication with those who ought to matter most — our close friends and family members.
“That’s not to say overuse of social media is good, but it’s not bad in the way people think it is,” said study co-author Jeffrey Hall from the University of Kansas in the US.
For the study, published in the journal Information, Communication and Society, the researchers performed two experiments.
In the first, they compared data on American youth from 2009 and 2011, to see whether there was any decrease in interpersonal contact that could be correlated with increased use of social media.
The researchers found no such relationship.
“It was not the case at all that social media adoption or use had a consistent effect on their direct social interactions with people,” Hall said.
Direct interactions were defined as getting out of one’s house, visiting friends, talking on the phone and attending meetings of groups and organisations (apart from religious groups).
For the second experiment, the researchers recruited 116 people and texted them five times a day for five consecutive days, querying them each time about their use of social media and direct social contacts in the previous 10 minutes.
“What we found was that people’s use of social media had no relationship to who they were talking to later that day and what medium they were using to talk to people later that day,” Hall said.