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Facebook users better off socially, Pew study finds

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Following on the popularity of sites like Groupon

SAN FRANCISCO >> Facebook users are more trusting of other people, have larger numbers of close friends and exhibit a higher level of civic engagement, according to a new survey.

The study by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project found that the number of people on social networking sites has more than doubled since 2008 and that people with Facebook accounts have a higher degree of social well-being than those without.

The findings, which were based on a phone survey of 2,255 U.S. adults last fall, challenge the common perception that social networking sites isolate people or undercut their real-world friendships and interactions, said University of Pennsylvania professor Keith Hampton, the lead author of the report.

"We’ve found the exact opposite," he said.

In fact, Facebook has become so integral to the social fabric of American life that:

Someone who logs into Facebook multiple times a day is 43 percent more likely than other Internet users and more than three times as likely as someone who does not use the Internet to feel that most people can be trusted.

Someone who uses Facebook several times per day averages 9 percent more close, core ties in their overall social network compared with other Internet users.

Someone who visits the site multiple times a day was 2 1/2 times more likely to attend a political rally or meeting, 57 percent more likely to persuade someone to vote for a candidate and 43 percent more likely to have said they would vote.

Facebook dominates social networking sites in the Pew survey: 92 percent of those who use such sites are on Facebook, 29 percent use MySpace, 18 percent use LinkedIn, and 13 percent use Twitter.

On an average day, 15 percent of Facebook users update their own status, 22 percent comment on a friend’s post or status, 20 percent comment on a friend’s photos, 26 percent "like" a friend’s content, and 10 percent send a friend a private message.

One disturbing finding: the social fallout from the digital divide. People who are not online have the smallest social networks, are more socially isolated, get the least amount of social support and are least likely to vote, Hampton said.

"The real digital divide today is a social network divide," he said.


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