Social networks engender trust

By July 19, 2011 3 Comments

One of the reasons that I’m a fan of social media is that I believe that Facebook, Twitter, blogs etc. are a powerful force for good by virtue of the transparency they bring to society and the relationships between people they engender (here are two posts I’ve written previously on this topic).  I realise that not everyone holds this view and that some people are worried about the implications for privacy and traditional offline relationships and so I like to blog when I see relevant research in this area.

This time it is another report from the Pew Research Center: Social Networking Sites and Our Lives, and a couple of the key findings were (as reported on FastCompany):

the Internet, in particular social networks, engender trust, and the more time you spend on them the more trusting you become

I think that is great.  One of the unfortunate features of late 20th century capitalism has been the decline in trust, which leaves people feeling more isolated and less fulfilled, so anything that reverses that trend has my backing.  I can almost hear the cynics arguing that trusting users of social networks are heading for a nasty surprise when someone steals their data and abuses that trust, but I just don’t see that happening, at least not on anything other than a very small scale.

Here is a little more detail on the correlation between internet use and trust:

As the report put it, "The typical Internet user is more than twice as likely as others to feel that people can be trusted," with regular Facebook users the most trusting of all. "A Facebook user who uses the site multiple times per day is 43% more likely than other Internet users and more than three times as likely as non-Internet users to feel that most people can be trusted." What’s more, while the average American has two "discussion confidants"–people they discuss important matters with–Facebookers who log in several times a day average 9% more close ties.

And finally a response to the fear that online relationships are being used to replace real world relationships:

The population on social networks has almost doubled over the past three years. Although some worry these online connections are being used to replace flesh and blood relationships, the Pew study found "little validity to concerns that people who use [social networks] experience smaller social networks, less closeness, or are exposed to less diversity." On the contrary, Americans "have more close social ties than they did two years ago," and "are less socially isolated."

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