Study: Internet users are more social

A Pew study said the Internet supplements, rather than replaces, social interaction.

Jeannine Aquino

Whether you log on once, twice or five times a day, Facebook remains many students’ guilty addiction.

But before online communication can be blamed for reducing real world social connections, it might be worth giving the Internet another chance.

A Pew Internet & American Life Project study showed that people who use online communication are quite social and tend to meet with and call people more often than nonusers.

Contrary to the image of the lone Internet user holed up in a room for hours, the study finds that e-mail does not “seduce people away from in-person or telephone contact.” Americans today actually are more in contact with their social networks than they were before the advent of the Internet.

The study surveyed the Internet use of 2,200 adults aged 18 and older. In two separate surveys, focusing first on social ties and then on the role of major life decisions, the study concluded that the Internet supplements, rather than replaces, communication people have with those closest to them.

This is particularly significant for those with large social networks.

Eve Shapiro, a first-year English student who has more than 300 friends on Facebook, said the social networking site is a nice way to get to know people she initially might not know well enough to have a full conversation with.

“It makes getting to know and meet people more comfortable,” she said.

According to the study, 31 percent of those surveyed said the Internet has increased the number of their significant ties, meaning those closest to them, while 2 percent said it decreased those ties. Thirty percent said it increased the number of casual acquaintances while 2 percent said it has decreased it.

Rob Waltonen, a biology senior, said he thinks the Internet is a good way to keep in contact with friends at other colleges.

However, he said, it shouldn’t be used to replace actually seeing them.

“(AOL Instant Messenger) shouldn’t be a replacement for visiting people you’re friends with,” he said. “It should be an accessory to it.”

Waltonen, who works at the Academic and Distributed Computing Services help line, said he thinks the findings are accurate.

“I work with people who are with computers and technology a lot,” he said, “Most of them still go out in the weekend and go to parties and bars with friends.”

University Deputy Chief Operating Officer Shih-Pau Yen said he is not surprised at all by the findings.

He estimated that University students spend about five hours each day in front of a computer.

Also, high school students are using the Internet more than they used to, he said.

“Sooner or later, it becomes a habit,” Yen said.