Social Media Doesn’t Cause People to Isolate

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Kids these days are completely incapable of interacting with people outside of Twitter! … At least, that’s been the argument—up until now. The claim that people who grew up with access to the world wide web and social media don’t know how to have face-to-face communication with other, living, breathing people has been a popular one. However, new research is uncovering how this may not be the case, after all.

Researchers from the University of Kansas published a study in the journal Information, Communication & Society about this very topic. In their first study, they found that social media access does not limit or reduce the amount of meaningful exposure users have with their friends and family. This fact was even more interesting when considering that participants were being studied at the height of many major social media networks surged in popularity, including Facebook.

“What was interesting was that, during a time of really rapid adoption of social media, and really powerful changes in use, you didn’t see sudden declines in people’s direct social contact,” Associate Professor of Communication Studies Jeffrey Hall told Science Daily. “If the social-displacement theory is correct, people should get out less and make fewer of those phone calls, and that just wasn’t the case.”

While this first study mainly focused on Generation X, their second study included half adults and half college students. “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. There was no indication that regular social media engagement reduced the amount of time people spent with other people later on in the day—including time spent on the telephone (which naysayers tend to say social media users no longer do).

The rise of social media certainly has its perks and drawbacks. One thing these researchers are happy to find is they can finally begin to debunk the assertion that users are turning into unhealthy recluses simply because they use social media. Any potential long-term psychological or social risks of social media use will likely continue to be investigated.

But, for now, we can rest easy knowing that the platforms we rely upon so much don’t directly cause people to turn into antisocial zombies—instead most people are still enjoying the same level of meaningful interpersonal reaction as others who opt not to tweet.