Are social networks really boosting our sense of personal well-being?


Jemima Kiss
Guardian
June 16, 2011

A cartoon doing the rounds on Twitter on Wednesday compared the way we listen to music, watch films and read the news 15 years ago to today. Now, of course, those are all things we do alone while plugged in to a computer. Beyond the punchline, is there some truth in the assumption that despite our hyper-connectedness, we are potentially more isolated than ever?

Research by Pew claims that online social networks do provide genuine emotional support and well-being, including advice, information and companionship. Using an established system of measuring well-being, Pew found that internet users felt it provided significant emotional support for them, particularly through social networks and particularly through Facebook.

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There’s an important distinction there; it was not that they found that users of Facebook were better supported emotionally, but that they reported that they felt they were, and in two key categories of emotional support and companionship. Pew described the sensation of well-being as equivalent to around “half the boost in total support that someone receives from being married or living with a partner”.

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