Michael Lerner

Sunday - Jun 19, 2011

As social media becomes more pervasive, the common wisdom has been that it alienates  and isolates people. A study done in 2006 confirmed that. But a new study released last week by the Pew Internet and American Life Project shoots down that theory. In fact it found just the opposite. Facebook and other social media sites may be good for your mental health.

The study consisted of telephone interviews with 2,255 adults, age 18 and older. Half said they use social media sites and 92% are on Facebook.

Among the findings for how people interact with Facebook are these:

  • 15% update their own status.
  • 22% comment on another’s post or status.
  • 20% comment on another user’s photos.
  • 26% “Like” another user’s content.
  • 10% send another user a private message

More interestingly, the study found that Facebook users have more close relationships and get more social support than non-users. They’re also more politically engaged.

Not as surprising is that Facebook has reconnected people with dormant relationships. Here’s who were on study participants’ “Friends” lists:

  • 22% people from high school
  • 12% extended family
  • 10% coworkers
  • 9% college friends
  • 8% immediate family
  • 7% people from voluntary groups
  • 2% neighbors

Far from being a way to keep people at arms length, social media provides the electronic glue that connects people across time and space. Given the positive effects, you might even say that it’s therapeutic.