Wednesday, May 11, 2011

"Just Facebook Me"

In my Communication Industry Research Methods course we're working on an assignment on quantitative research design. We are to work in small groups to explore survey and sampling methods using a research question relevant to OSU students' social media use. Our group has decided to look at the correlation between a student's time spent utilizing social media and time spent on face-to-face interaction. We are hypothesizing that as social media time increases, face-to-face time will decrease. We have created a 20-question survey using Zoomerang that will be sent out to OSU students via Facebook or email.

Many of the questions are obvious ones regarding hours spent per week using social media and having face-to-face interaction with friends, and the same question for weekends. We also asked if students have ever created a friendship/relationship via Facebook, if they've used social media to collaborate on group projects instead of meeting in person, and what mode of communication they use to communicate with friends (email, phone call, text message or social media).
Once all of the responses are in (20-40 students) we will analyze the data to determine the descriptive results, such as frequency and percentage, and also will report the correlation or inference statistics if applicable.

So how does this affect social interaction, particularly that of Gen Y? Personally I know I put off visits to friends who are not in Columbus much longer than I would if I did not have access to them via social media. We keep in touch fairly regularly on Facebook, so there's no fear of losing contact. Because I came into social media during my senior year of high school, I'm not sure how contact with friends may have changed or ceased when I moved away for college had I not used it. However, looking at my parents (part of Gen X) I see that they lost contact with nearly all people from their high school save for a select few. For Gen X it is a unique situation though, because through watching their children and other gen-Yers utilize social media to keep in touch with people, many of them have started to create social media accounts. So though they lost contact because of a lack of social media, they are now reconnected with old friends and acquaintences. After my mom had me log onto my Facebook on several occasions so she could try to find people to see what they were up to, I created an account for her so she could reconnect with people and actually interact with them. While updates on classmates and family members previously has been held to class reunions and family gatherings, gen-Xers are now finding this can be done online in a more impersonal but easy way.

I think gen-Yers see social media in a different and generally more positive way than gen-Xers because we grew up with it and are used to the way it works. Does this go beyond the regular interaction we have with friends and even bleed into class reunion attendance? For me, I don't think attending my 5 year reunion is necessary because I still see all the people I want to see, and for anyone I've missed I can always contact them via Facebook. I know what most of the people I graduated with are doing because keeping up is as easy as reading my news feed. Did more gen-Xers attend their 5 year reunion than gen-Yers? What about 10 year reunions?
Social media also creates a mode of communication that is easier and less intimidating for more superficial relationships. Though it may reduce face-to-face interaction in deeper relationships which is widely viewed as negative, it increases interaction in brief acquantences and networking. There are people I may have never interacted with that I can follow, correspond and network with, and establish connections to via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Cbusr and other sites. I would never ask an industry expert, speaker, or well known person for their phone number, but I can find them on LinkedIn and establish a connection with them. This is a great way to re-introduce yourself, thank someone, or even just to create name recognition for yourself. I think professional use of social media is an invaluable tool for college students to take advantage of during school to establish a substantial network that can be drawn upon when it comes time to search for a job. It also allows individuals to create a personal brand for themselves so they are more than a resume and cover letter when going into an interview.

I'll post my group's findings once we've conducted our survey and anaylze the results. I definitely think there will be a correlation between time spent utilizing social media and time spent on face-to-face interaction, and am interested to see how much of a difference there is.

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