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Social media lives up to its name

15:54 on Fri, 25 Nov 2011 | Social Media | 1 Comment

What exactly do you use social media for? Spying on old flames? Entering competitions? Writing bitter comments under peoples’ status updates? You’d suppose people have a variety of (potentially unsavoury) reasons to use social networking platforms, but US research released earlier this month has revealed a softer side to our online habits. The study, conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, questioned over 2,250 Americans to discover their reasons for using a social media site. Unusually, the vast majority of the respondents said that they used social networking simply for keeping in touch with their friends.

Social media has often been the scapegoat for many of society’s panics. When Friends Reunited was launched, a flurry of reports suggested it was responsible for an increase in extramarital affairs. Twitter has often been the butt of derisory jokes suggesting that its users are self-obsessed, unimaginative bores and Facebook has recently come under fire as widely-circulated reports suggested that teens have used it as a platform for bullying. All are unfair criticisms; we should all be aware by now that there’s no ‘controlling’ the internet. When a free, widely-used platform is made available to anyone with a computer, there’s always a risk that a minority will use it for unsociable means. We’re communicative creatures, and social media has given us ways of finding like-minded others that wouldn’t be possible in the real world. Think I’m wrong? Try standing in your local Sainsbury’s with a sign saying ‘I like to talk about my fixation with Disney’. Good luck finding kindred spirits.

Social media is so successful because of what it is; it’s not just a clever name. There’s no catch. It’s an easy-to-use platform that users will make of it what they will - and the way most people will utilise it is to keep in touch with others. The survey conducted by Pew Internet & American Life Project also discovered that a mere 3% of social media users considered ‘finding potential romantic partners’ their main reason for getting online; despite Friends Reunited being unfairly blamed with causing affairs (the Daily Mail has even covered the uneasily-titled ‘First Friends Reunited murder’), Facebook and Twitter users appear to be set on one thing only - conversation. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

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Charlee • Years ago

This is a really intelligent way to answer the question.