Contrary to popular opinion, social network users actually do have real lives. According to a poll published on Thursday by the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project, Facebook users are more trusting, have more close friends and are more politically engaged.
The survey of 2,255 American adults found that Facebook members who use the site multiple times per day are more than three times as likely as non-Internet users to feel that most people can be trusted.
People who use Facebook several times per day average nine percent more close, core ties in their overall social network than other Internet users.
And Facebook users are two and a half times more likely to attend a political rally or a meeting than other Internet users and users of other social networking platforms, according to the poll.
"There has been a great deal of speculation about the impact of social networking site use on people's social lives," said Keith Hampton, the lead author of the Pew Internet report.
"Much of it has centered on the possibility that these sites are hurting users' relationships and pushing them away from participating in the world," said Hampton, an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication.
"We've found the exact opposite -- that people who use sites like Facebook actually have more close relationships and are more likely to be involved in civic and political activities," he said.
Forty-two percent of the US adult population is using social networking sites, up from 26 percent in 2008, the survey found, and the average age of adult users has shifted from 33 in 2008 to 38 in 2010.
Facebook, which has nearly 700 million users worldwide and nearly 160 million in the United States, was the most popular social network among those surveyed and the one with which they had the most engagement.
Ninety-two percent were on Facebook, 29 percent were on Myspace, 18 percent were on LinkedIn and 13 percent used Twitter.
Fifty-two percent of Facebook users and 33 percent of Twitter users engaged with the platform daily compared with only seven percent of Myspace users and only six percent of LinkedIn users.
The average Facebook user in the sample had 229 Facebook friends with 22 percent being friends from high school, 12 percent extended family, 10 percent co-workers, nine percent college friends, eight percent immediate family, seven percent from voluntary groups and two percent neighbors.
Thirty-one percent of Facebook friends could not be classified. Only three percent of Facebook friends were people users had never met in person.
The average adult Facebook user was 38, the average Myspace user was 32, the average LinkedIn user was 40 and the average Twitter user was 33.
As for their activities on Facebook, on an average day, 15 percent of users update their own status, 22 percent comment on someone else's post or status, 20 percent comment on another user's photos, 26 percent "like" another user's content and 10 percent send a friend a private message.
Most people update their status less than once per week and 16 percent have never updated their status.
The survey was conducted between October 20 and November 28 and has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.
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