So you’ve reached 500 friends on Facebook. Congratulations! Too bad that having Facebook "friends" isn’t the same as having real friends, right?
Wrong! At least according to a new study from the Pew Research Center. The D.C.-based think tank surveyed 2,225 US adults on their internet usage, social networking habits and social life, and found some surprising correlations between the three. In short: social networkers have more friends than I do! (Need to start Tweeting more, I guess. By the way-are you following us on Twitter yet?)
Pew polled three types of people: those active on social networks, those who are online but not on a social network, and those who do not use the Internet. The study not only found that twice as many people are on social networks than there were three years ago (almost half of the total amount surveyed), but that these Internet-savvy folks are no longer basement-dwelling loners of yore – they are, in the words of Cosmo Kramer (in a slightly different context), out there and loving every minute of it!
Respondents with profiles on social networks, for example, on average reported having 2.45 "close" friends, while offline respondents averaged 1.75. Having a few close friend is one thing, but what about plain ol’ acquaintances? Do those of us on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn know more people? Well, yes we do, in fact: almost two hundred more on average. (Casey Johnson over at Ars Technica has a nice write-up about the study.)
One should be always be cautious in drawing too many conclusions from a study like this – surveys are necessarily provisional and limited in scope, and correlation is not causation. Still, it’s perfectly logical to think that social networking may be encouraging some of us to step out of our shells. Websites like Facebook and Twitter make it easy to communicate with people you’d probably never think to reach out to otherwise, and considering the amount of time we all are spending online, it’s no surprise that many of us are building closer friendships and larger networks of contacts. No longer is the Internet just a land of make-believe (although it certainly can be!) – the Internet is one place where we are living our lives. This is something of which we at Spokeo are very cognizant. As I wrote in my last blog, Spokeo works hard to integrate different strands of data (i.e. information from Name Search, Email Search, Phone Search and Username Search) into a more fully-formed whole. We are the only People Search site that understands that our "online identity" is more and more a part of our "real" identity. As the Pew study shows, it’s getting a lot more tricky to draw a distinction between social life online and off – they’re merging into one.