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Social Networking and “life satisfaction” April 5, 2008

Posted by Robert Rich in symposium.
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Student users of the popular social networking site Facebook report a higher level of life satisfaction, but the structure of the site does not necessarily bode well for journalists.

Sebastian Valenzuela of UT Austin, who wrote “Lessons from Facebook: The Effect of Social Network Sites on College Students’ Social Capital” with Namsu Park and Kerk F. Kee presented the paper.

Valenzuela and his colleagues found that heavy users of the site reported a 15% higher level of life satisfaction, but only a 5% higher level of social trust.

“Facebook users are more connected, happy and engaged that what they get credited for in the mainstream media,” Valenzuela said. “But their relationships are not that strong. They are positive, but not strong.”

Valenzuela concluded with lessons that journalists can take from the study.

“Social networking sites are useful structures for connecting people, sharing information and for collective action, but not for exchaning points of view,” Valenzuela said.

He also warned that a local media company using the social networking structure may not emulate the benefits of a global social networking site.

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