At its core, social networking is about allowing users to interact more freely. And according to a new study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, the vast majority of that interaction is positive and personally rewarding. However, the study also found some negative social effects, with a higher percentage of negativity centered around teens.
According to Pew, the experience of adults on social networking sites (SNS) is mostly positive. 85% of adults on SNS report that their experience on the sites is that people are mostly kind. Only 5% say people they observe on the sites are mostly unkind, and another 5% who say their answer depends on the situation.
68% of adult SNS users said they had an experience that made them feel good about themselves. 61% had experiences that made them feel closer to another person.
However, as we all know, social networking isn't all roses and sunshine. 49% of adults on SNS said they have seen mean or cruel behavior displayed at least occasionally.
15% of adult SNS users said they had an experience on the site that ended their friendship with someone. 12% of adult SNS users had an experience that resulted in a face-to-face argument or confrontation with someone. 11% of adult SNS users had an experience on the site that caused a problem with their family.
Even worse, 3% of adults on SNS said they had gotten into a physical fight with someone based on an experience they had on the site, while 3% also said their use of the site had gotten them in trouble at work.
But according to Pew, adults' experience on SNS is, generally, much more positive than that of teens. For instance, while 12% of adults had been prompted to get into a face-to-face argument from experience on SNS, 25% of teens had. And while only 15% of adults had ended friendships based on what happened on social networking, 22% of teens had.
Also, according to the survey, minorities, women, parents, and Millennials (aged 18-34) were more likely to have witnessed offensive material on SNS. 42% of black SNS users said they saw language, images, or humor that they found to be offensive, as compared with 22% of white users. 34% of Millennials said they saw offensive material, compared to only 17% of those of Generation X.