Web users less lonely, more charitable


6 Nov 2009

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Far from the long-running stereotype of the internet user holed up alone in a dark room, a recent study has shown that thanks to social media, internet users are actually quite a friendly and diverse group that are more likely to volunteer for charitable causes.

The US-based Pew Internet Personal Networks and Community Survey has found that contrary to a widely-reported 2006 study arguing that American citizens have become more socially isolated, insular ad uncharitable since 1985, it appears that mobile phones, the internet and social-networking sites have somewhat reversed this.

Outside of home

As for social isolation, the study found that 38pc of participants have logged onto the internet from a public library while a further 18pc did so from a café.

When looking at an individual’s core social network and how they interact with others, the research suggested that those with Facebook accounts were more likely to engage with people of more diverse opinion and cultural backgrounds.

Interestingly, mobile-phone users, frequent internet users and bloggers were found to be more likely to get involved in local charitable organisations, like youth groups, whereas Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace members were less likely, perhaps because of a tendency to supplant this charitable urge with virtual advice and help amongst the online social circle.

Some more interesting stats: people in the US are now talking on their mobile phones more than on landlines as the primary method of keeping in touch with family and friends, while a typical year for staying in contact with a core social network looks like this:

In-person contact: 210 days/year

Mobile phone: 195 days/year

Landline phone: 125 days/year

Text messaging: 125 days/year

Email: 72 days/year

Instant messaging: 55 days/year

Social-networking sites: 39 days/year

Letters or cards: 8 days/year

By Marie Boran

Photo: Frequent internet users have been found to be more likely to get involved in local charitable organisations, a survey by Pew Internet suggests.