Teens spend hours each day planted in front of Facebook. College students get the shakes when they are asked to go a week without social media. Moms are hooked on playing FarmVille. The word “addiction” gets tossed around.
But there are few indications that, for most people, social media is a replacement for real-life interaction rather than a supplement. Nearly half of Twitter users surveyed in April by ExactTarget who had increased their use of Twitter said they were meeting their friends more in person than before; just 7% were doing so less often. Most said they spent the same amount of time calling friends on the phone as before, with 33% increasing phone calls and just 13% phoning less.
The situation with users who had increased their time on Facebook was similar. For the most part, in-person and phone interactions with friends had remained the same. Facebook usage was less likely to actually increase time spent with friends in real life, but that could be because the nature of Twitter makes it easy to plan get-togethers with people nearby.
A September poll by Harris Interactive also pointed to the supplementary nature of social media. The sites helped users feel fairly well connected with a variety of people—especially those who were also their close friends or immediate family.
But most users still preferred to interact with friends, family and acquaintances face-to-face. The preference for in-person interaction was weaker among the youngest users surveyed, but even among 18- to 34-year-olds, just 27% said they would rather see friends in person than communicate through social media.
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