Social Networking Sites: Levels of Trust, Engagement
For increasing numbers of people, sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are becoming crucial platforms for communicating with friends, family and work colleagues. Just as the mass-market introduction of phones, radio and the telegram changed patterns of emotional, social and political interaction across society, so too are Internet-based technologies and applications now. Precisely how these changes will play out, though, is just emerging.
A 2011 Pew Research Center study, “Social Networking Sites and Our Lives,” surveyed more than 2,000 Americans in late 2010 to look at how use of social networking sites is linked to development of trust, tolerance, social support, and community and political engagement.
The study’s findings include:
- Nearly 80% of American adults regularly use the Internet, and nearly 60% of Internet users said they use at least one social networking site (SNS). This is nearly double the rate since 2008.
- According to the survey, Facebook is the most popular SNS, with over 90% of those who said they used SNS responding that they had accounts.
- When asked if “most people can be trusted,” 46% of Internet users responded affirmatively, compared to 27% of non-Internet users; Facebook users were 43% more trusting than other Internet users.
- Users of SNS were predominantly female (56%); the exception was LinkedIn, where there were nearly twice as many men (63%) as women (37%).
- Internet users in general were more than twice as likely to attend a political meeting; they were also 78% more likely to try to influence someone’s vote, and 53% more likely to have voted or intended to vote.
- Internet users scored, on average, 3 points higher on a 100 scale measure of self-reported perceived “support” they receive (emotional, companionship, and instrumental); Facebook users scored, on average, 5 points higher.
The researchers conclude that “the findings suggests that there is little validity to concerns that people who use SNS experience smaller social networks, less closeness, or are exposed to less diversity.”
Tags: technology, Twitter, Facebook
Note to instructor: The suggested assignments are designed for flexibility. They can be used in whole or part and can be adapted to a particular task -- for example, the newswriting assignments could be applied to the writing of the headline, the lead, the nut graph or the full story. Material from the assignments could also be combined with other material, for example, in the writing of a background, feature or local-angle story.
Read the Pew Research Center study "Social Networking Sites and Our Lives."
- Summarize the study in fewer than 40 words.
- Express the study's key term(s) in language a lay audience can understand.
- Evaluate the study's limitations. (For example: Do the results conflict with those of other reliable studies? Are there weaknesses in the study's data or research design?)
Read the issue-related Washington Post article "Keeping Up with Social Networking Sites: How Much Is Enough?"
- If you were to incorporate findings from the study into the article, what key changes would you make?
- Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study.
- Spend 60 minutes exploring the issue by accessing sources of information other than the study. Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study but informed by the new information. Does the new information significantly change what one would write based on the study alone?
- Interview two sources with a stake in or knowledge of the issue. Be prepared to provide them with a short summary of the study in order to get their response to it. Write a 400-word article about the study incorporating material from the interviews.
- Spend additional time exploring the issue and then write a 1,200-word background article, focusing on major aspects of the issue.