"I think that the early studies in the 90s regarding computer use altogether fostered this image of the disturbed, isolated person who was pursuing an alter-ego online," she observed. "But I think if that picture ever did exist it's very different in the social networking that we see today."
"Particularly in terms of the Facebook type of social media, the fact is that this is not an anonymous setting," Freberg noted. "You have your picture up there, and generally speaking people use a lot of personal identification information. And the purpose is to complete and continue connections with people they actually know in person. There's much of less of a tendency to use Facebook to go out there and meet strangers. Members are looking at their high school friends, and they're keeping in touch with family and people going to different universities. It's a way of maintaining contact with people you actually physically know, as opposed to hunting out new relationships."
"This is true, by the way, not just for college students, who were the first group that utilized Facebook," Freberg added, "but also for the fastest-growing segment on Facebook today: boomers. People over 55. They're also accurately representing themselves, because they're also looking for a way to maintain social connectivity. So I do think this study is accurate in its assessment that people are being fairly authentic online."
Here's more on social networking.
SOURCES: Sam Gosling, Ph.D., personality/social psychologist, department of psychology, University of Texas, Austin; Laura Freberg, Ph.D., professor, psychology, California State Polytechnic University, San
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