“There has been a great deal of speculation about the impact of social networking site use on people’s social lives, and much of it has centered on the possibility that these sites are hurting users’ relationships and pushing them away from participating in the world,” Hampton said in a recent press release. He surveyed 2,255 American adults this past fall and published his results in a study last month. “We’ve found the exact opposite—that people who use sites like Facebook actually have more close relationships and are more likely to be involved in civic and political activities.” Hampton’s study paints one of the fullest portraits of today’s social networking site user. His data shows that 47 percent of adults, averaging 38 years old, use at least one site. Every day, 15 percent of Facebook users update their status and 22 percent comment on another’s post. In the 18- to 22-year-old demographic, 13 percent post status updates several times a day. At those frequencies, “user” seems fitting. Social networking starts to sound like an addiction, but Hampton’s results suggest perhaps it is a good addiction to have. After all, he found that people who use Facebook multiple times a day are 43 percent more likely than other Internet users to feel that most people can be trusted. They have about 9 percent more close relationships and are 43 percent more likely to have said they would vote.
The Wall Street Journal recently profiled the Wilsons, a New York City-based family of five that collectively maintains nine blogs and tweets incessantly. (Dad, Fred Wilson, is a venture capitalist whose firm, Union Square Ventures, invested in Tumblr, Foursquare and Etsy.) “They are a very connected family—connected in terms of technology,” says writer Katherine Rosman on WSJ.com. “But what makes it super interesting is that they are also a very close-knit family and very traditional in many ways. [They have] family dinner five nights a week.” The Wilsons have managed to seamlessly integrate social media into their everyday lives, and Rosman believes that while what they are doing may seem extreme now, it could be the norm soon. “With the nature of how we all consume media, being on the internet all the time doesn’t mean being stuck in your room. I think they are out and about doing their thing, but they’re online,” she says.