The name suggests that social networks should encourage us to be social, but research sponsored by Optus suggests that it might do anything but that. Are we really a nation of social network obsessed anti-social people? It’s an unusual bit of research for Optus to put forward, given that one of the long-term planks of its mobile offerings has been free Facebook access, and apparently will revolve around some kind of Optus ad campaign relating to closeness. According to Optus’ statistics, the average Australian has 165 Facebook “friends”, but only 33 of those would be considered “close” friends. 45 per cent of the 2,195 people felt that social networks made them feel “less close” to friends and family.
That leaves the obvious conclusion that up to 55 per cent actually did feel that social networks were OK — as well as the more personal and anecdotal thought that I’ve got an above average number of friends. Either I’m more popular than I thought — or less picky than I should be.
That aside, it’s an interesting conclusion to draw; I suppose the fact that most social networking sites are quite public, even when you try your best to keep things private, may have a part to play in the figures, combined with those folk who get addicted to such things and miss out on direct human connection. It is clearly a personal issue (as you’d expect with anything that relates to “close” friends) but I also wonder if it’s not an issue of blaming the tools rather than the tradesperson; social networks, after all, don’t even exist without people.