LOS ANGELES -- Social networking has been described as the contemporary way that people interact. While that may be true, an individual's social success in the virtual world doesn't appear to carry over into the real world, according to a new study.
Previous studies on how the Internet affects relationships have produced mixed findings. Some research shows that lots of social networking activity has a negative effect on social life while others suggest it enhances one's social circle. The new study, led by Thomas V. Pollet of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, examined 117 people age 18 to 63. They filled out an extensive questionnaire about the time they spend on instant messaging and social network sites, the number of relationships they had overall and the closeness of those relationships.
The researchers found that spending a lot of time online was not linked to having a larger number of "offline" friends. Moreover, the relationships of people who socialized online weren't any closer or stronger than people who didn't socialize online.
The average age of the study participants was 28, and it could be that age influences the effect of social media, the authors said. For example, teenagers who are prone to shyness may find their number of friends offline rises when they spend more time online. But for adults, social media may have little effect in real-life relationships.
"These media may be less effective at building and maintaining emotionally intense relationships than other types of communication," the authors wrote. The study was published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking.
(c) 2011, Los Angeles Times.
Visit the Los Angeles Times, www.latimes.com.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.