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Social media may not hinder millennial relationships IRL after all


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Photo: Stocksy/Nemanja Glumac

Social media is the scapegoat of the modern world. In an endless stream, articles and research continually sound the alarm on how the rise of platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat has debilitated millennial social life and culture: People are lonelier, more reclusive, and would rather spend time posting about doing things than actually doing them. But according to a new study, the situation might not actually be so dire.

Published in Information, Communication & Society, the study sought to find data to either back up or disprove social displacement theory—essentially the idea that social media is harming face-to-face interpersonal relationships. The study comprised two parts: First, the researchers scoured the Longitudinal Study of American Youth, comparing its data in 2009 and in 2011 to see if there was a correlation between increased social-media usage and decreased IRL contact. Second, the researchers enlisted 116 subjects, half of them college students and half adults in the community, and texted them five times a day for five days, each time asking respondents about their social-media usage and face-to-face social contact in the past 10 minutes.

“It doesn’t seem that, either within the same time period or projecting the future, that social-media use indicates people not having close relationship partners in face-to-face or telephone conversation.” —Dr. Jeffery Hall, professor and study co-author

In both parts of the study, the researchers found that social media use had no bearing on the quality in-person time they spent with people in their lives. Speaking to Science Daily, Jeffrey Hall, PhD, an author of the study, said, “It doesn’t seem that, either within the same time period or projecting the future, that social-media use indicates people not having close relationship partners in face-to-face or telephone conversation.”

Basically, you can have your cake (Instagram) and eat it, too (friendship). But a little digital detox here and there wouldn’t hurt.

You can have a healthy relationship with social media by using traditional Chinese medicine and staying authentic.

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