Personal socialization has declined, but social media is not to blame, says the researcher

Jeffrey Hall is particularly passionate about two things – friendship and social media – and he thinks the latter is too often confused with the enemy of the former.

His most recent article looks at the best available evidence to refute the “social mobility hypothesis” that the use of mobile and social media is the cause of declining face-to-face (FTP) interactions. In doing so, he revealed a worrying trend: there has been a steady and steady decline in FtF time in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, which began long before the rise of social media. This new analysis shows that the decline has continued due to orders to stay at home and social distancing from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hall, a professor of communication studies and director of the Laboratory of Relationships and Technology at the University of Kansas, and his co-author Dong Liu of Renmin University in China, discuss the idea in a new article entitled “Using Social Media, Social Mobility, and Prosperity.” Current opinion in psychology.

“The social mobility hypothesis is probably the best-known and longest-running explanation for the origins of the time spent using new technologies, from the Internet to text messaging and now to social media,” Hall said. “The argument of social relocation says that new media is reducing our face-to-face time. The best available evidence shows that this is simply not the case.”

Hall took FtF time data from the U.S. Department of Labor’s annual U.S. time use survey and similar government surveys in Oz and the United Kingdom from 1995 to 2021 and plotted them together. All three rows decrease at a similar rate over time.

“Yes,” said Hall, “it is true that social media consumption has increased in all demographics and around the world. Yes, it is true that face-to-face time has decreased. However, this is not the case.”

If the evidence does not support the theory of social relocation, then where is the time to increase the use of social media?

“We’re seeing a change in where people are paying attention,” Hall said. Noting that TikTok and YouTube are becoming increasingly popular streaming content spots, Hall points out that time spent on social media may have been borrowed from watching TV, which has been a major American spot for decades. “Time spent on social media also takes time away from work or household chores,” Hall said.

And, says Hall, friendship and social media are not enemies: “Social media can be used in many ways to promote friendships, especially now that many people are using email programs supported by social media platforms. According to the publication,” social people are active both online and offline. “

The paper presents a new analysis showing that FtF time has declined in the same way in three countries. “The fact that the UK data follows the US data so closely, despite the fact that slightly different methods are used in different years, is surprising,” Hall said. This international trend to reduce face-to-face communication time may reflect increasing levels of loneliness.

Hall’s analysis shows that these downward trends in direct communication persisted long before the pandemic, and the pandemic may have exacerbated some of them. When people had little time because they didn’t go to work or couldn’t get out so much, they didn’t turn to direct communication. Hall notes: “In this case, it is a deterrent that even when people have time, they do not seem to be using it in a way that promotes their social health. Given the widespread evidence that FtF’s socialization brings prosperity, “we cannot reclaim this full-time time,” Hall said, “at least in these three countries.”

Why is FtF time declining? “The best available evidence suggests that on-time time competes with hours spent at work and in transportation,” Hall said. In other words, people who work more spend more of their free time alone. During the pandemic, when people regained this time on the road, “they still spent it practically working,” Hall said. “They did not accompany them, socializing with each other. »

“We seem to live in a society that values ​​work and media consumption more than anything else,” Hall said. “Reducing face-to-face time is a matter of priority and availability. And we do not prioritize face-to-face time, nor are we available to do so. »

Georgie Collins

"Falls down a lot. Writer. Passionate alcohol maven. Future teen idol. Hardcore music practitioner. Food fanatic. Devoted travel fan."

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