Facebook an antidote for shyness: Study

By Anne Collier

A University of Texas study found that Facebook is helping people on the shy side of social. “Surveying 900 current and recent college graduates nationwide, Craig Watkins and Erin Lee of the Department of Radio-Television-Film at the University of Texas examined the impact of Facebook on users’ social lives,” the New York Times reports. “Four to five years ago, Dr. Watkins said, young people’s social networks were far more limited.” His study found that “young people use Facebook to stay in touch with far-flung friends (47% say it’s very important) and family members (35%).” It also found some interesting gender differences in Facebook use, writes Dr. Watkins in his Web page about the study: Women “are much more likely to use Facebook to communicate about or share content related to friends and family. Men, by contrast, are much more likely to communicate about or share content related to pop culture, the news, or current events.” There was another key finding around ethnicity: “A few years ago,” Watkins writes, there was a general belief that Facebook was principally a platform used by whites. But the presence of African Americans and Latinos has grown substantially over the last three years. Many of the black and Latino students we first met four years ago have moved from MySpace to Facebook.”

In Nigeria: For a fascinating cultural note, don’t miss the first comment under Wakins’s blog post, from Wale One at the University of Ibadan: Mr. One agrees with Watkins’ important point that, “unfortunately, much of the public attention, scrutiny, and hysteria treats young people as a monolith, an undifferentiated mass.” One writes that “their use of digital media is both universal and culture-specific…. It is interesting to note that appropriating digital media (Facebook inclusive) has a cultural bias in Africa, and Nigeria specifically. Youths use social media specially to immortalise ideologies of dead heroes like that of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, support a political course … support their communal inclination (membership of schools, towns & villages) … propagate private and business ideas (which may or may not be fraudulent) and ultimately, to flirt (online dating).” [See also “Snapshot of social networking in Brazil.”]

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