A study focused on the virtual reality program "Second Life" found that online interactions seem to enhance real-life social skills. By giving users a common world and environment, the program facilitates social connection. The author of the study concluded that while our social and communication skills may be changing, they're not eroding [source: ScienceDaily].
Honestly, though -- out of all those hundreds of friends you have on Facebook, how many of them would you invite to a party, or to your wedding? How many of them would you call when your car breaks down? You're more likely in these situations to turn to your core ties. The important thing to remember with online social networks, as with the Internet in general, is that nothing can really replace face-to-face contact. Your networks should enhance your social and professional life, not replace it. If your online social networks replace or damage your real-life relationships, you may want to evaluate yourself for Internet addiction [source: Center for Internet Addiction Recovery].
And how about dating? How do your online social networks affect your personal life? More and more, we're hearing stories of miscommunications due to Facebook. Mostly these are just amusing -- for example, the couple who decided to move their relationship status from public to private and were immediately inundated with messages and condolences from concerned friends about their supposed breakup [source: Hines]. Some are more serious, like the woman who found out her husband was divorcing her by reading his status update [source: Tozer]. Incidents such as these simply underscore the importance of meaningful communication.
For more about social networks, explore the links below.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- Boase, Jeffrey; Horrigan, John B.; Wellman, Barry and Rainie, Lee. "The Strength of Internet Ties." Pew Internet & American Life Project. Jan. 25, 2006. (May 7, 2009) http://www.pewinternet.org/~/media//Files/Reports/2006/PIP_Internet_ties.pdf.pdf
- Center for Internet Addiction Recovery. "What is Internet Addiction?" Netaddiction.com. 2009. (May 7, 2009) http://www.netaddiction.com/whatis.htm
- Clarke, Rory J. "Bowling Together." OECD Observer. March 2004. (May 7, 2009) http://www.oecdobserver.org/news/fullstory.php/aid/1215/Bowling_together.html
- Economist, The. "Primates on Facebook." Economist.com. Feb. 26, 2009. (May 7, 2009) http://www.economist.com/science/displaystory.cfm?story_id=13176775
- Good Morning America. "Parents: Cyber Bullying Led to Teen's Suicide." ABC News. Nov. 19, 2007. (May 7, 2009) http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/Story?id=3882520
- Hines, Twanna A. "Is Facebook Helping or Hurting Your Love Life?" Fast Company. Feb. 13, 2008. (May 7, 2009) http://www.fastcompany.com/articles/2008/02/facebook-love-life.html
- Matyszczyk, Chris. "Facebook friend helps avert suicide from 3,000 miles away." CNET News. April 5, 2009. (May 7, 2009) http://news.cnet.com/8301-17852_3-10212554-71.html
- NPR. "The Net Effect." On The Media. April 3, 2009. (May 7, 2009) http://www.onthemedia.org/transcripts/2009/04/03/02
- Perez, Erica. "Need a job? Get social - in a networking kind of way." JSOnline. May 4, 2009. (May 7, 2009) http://www.jsonline.com/news/education/44272772.html
- Randerson, James. "Social networking sites don't deepen friendships." Guardian.co.uk. Sept. 10, 2007. (May 7, 2009) http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2007/sep/10/socialnetwork?gusrc=rss&feed=technology
- Saguaro Seminar. "Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Social Capital." Harvard.edu. 2009. (May 7, 2009) http://www.hks.harvard.edu/saguaro/faqs.htm
- Saguaro Seminar. "Social Capital Primer." Harvard.edu. 2009. (May 7, 2009) http://www.hks.harvard.edu/saguaro/primer.htm
- Science Daily. "Second Life Improves Real-Life Social Skills." ScienceDaily.com. July 21, 2008. (May 7, 2009) http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080717210838.htm
- Thomson, Clive. "Brave New World of Digital Intimacy." New York Times. Sept. 5, 2008. (May 7, 2009) http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/07/magazine/07awareness-t.html?pagewanted=all
- Tozer, James. "Husband dumps his wife with online message in 'world's first divorce by Facebook.'" MailOnline. Feb. 9, 2009. (May 7, 2009) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1136503/Husband-dumps-wife-online-message-worlds-divorce-Facebook.html
- Tribble, Sarah Jane. "The Social Network as a Career Safety Net." New York Times. Aug. 13, 2008. (May 7, 2009) http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/14/technology/personaltech/14basics.html?_r=1&scp=23&sq=social%20networking&st=cse