We are not tethered to Facebook, thanks: People in their 30s connect face-to-face as often as they do online, says a new longitudinal study from the University of Michigan that asked 3,027 respondents about their social habits.
The researchers surveyed people in their late 30s for the report, “Social Capital: Networking in Generation X,” a generation that describes those born between the early 1960s and the early 1980s – the first cohort to have reached adulthood at the dawn of the electronic age.
Yet even as the first generation to grow of age with the Web, 30-somethings are still valuing in-person connections wherever they can get them, and that’s increasingly at work, the researchers found.
“Young adults in Generation X are as likely to connect with friends, family and co-workers online as they are in person,” reads a release for the study, conducted in 2011.
Tracking their own patterns over a month, adults in their late 30s reported 75 face-to-face contacts or conversations compared to 74 electronic contacts through personal e-mails or social media. Monthly, they met up with or had one-on-one conversations with co-workers nearly 60 times, saw family and friends eight times and attended social or community meetings four times. They also had in-person connections through three hours of volunteer work per week. And monthly, participants reported sending 39 non-work e-mails, Facebooking 23 times, using Twitter four times, Skyping once and sending photos seven times.
“This is the first generation of Americans to reach adulthood at the beginning of the Electronic Era,” Jon D. Miller, author of the latest issue of the report, said in the release. “But the young adults in Generation X are currently maintaining a healthy balance between personal and electronic social networking.”
He continued: “Given the speed of emerging technologies, it is likely that electronic contacts will continue to grow in the years ahead, eventually exceeding face-to-face interactions.”
Several key gender differences emerged in the findings: Young men reported significantly more face-to-face contact per month than women – 86 compared to 65. (Miller said that happens for men at work.) Young women, meanwhile, initiated more electronic contact, 76 instances compared to 71 for men. Women were also more prone to visiting family and friends, attending community meetings and volunteering.
Young adults who had their bachelors or advanced degrees tended to have larger social networks, while respondents who didn’t finish high school relied less on electronic networking.
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