5 Millennial truths: We have more close friends

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Could Millennials be too connected? Yesterday, we started our series on Millennial “truths” that older Americans might not understand. The 18-29 year-olds’ affection for technology—from iPads to Twitter—was just one example. We’re wired in, and we have our 1,000-plus Facebook friends to prove it.

But is it possible that our thousands of virtual friends detract from “real-life” friendships? Yesterday, readers voiced a number of the same concerns I’ve heard before about the increasing digitalization of today’s communication. “I understand the Millennial use of social network but I also am concerned about their choice to converse with people they may never see at the expense of those right in their immediate vicinity,” said Linda.

Mike echoed her concern, lamenting a lack of “depth in connections.”

In the midst of evolving technology, relationships are changing, but are they necessarily changing for the worse? The question leads us to …

The Second “Truth”:
We have more close friends

Believe it or not, these virtually connected Millennials have more close friends, (yes, “real-life” friends!) than any other generation. And they’re more likely to maintain these connections longer. But good news for older Americans: Increasing our circle of friends isn’t limited by age, if people engage in social networking. In a fascinating new survey, Pew Research Center dissects the effects of social networking sites on our lives. As we saw yesterday, Millennials dominate social networks. According to 2010 data, 80 percent of Internet users ages 18-35 use social networking sites, compared to 48 percent of Internet users over age 35.

The survey findings show that social network users are not isolated by technology—quite the opposite! Technology users have larger overall social networks (not just online ties) than average Americans, and are less likely to be socially isolated. Facebook users, more than half of which are under 34, average 9 percent more close ties in their social network than other internet users. On top of this, Facebookers are more likely to revive “dormant” relationships.

What does this mean for older Americans? Will they grow old with few friends, while Millennials are surrounded by social networks? Not necessarily. The numbers of older Americans on social networking sites is quickly climbing. Millennials may have led the social networking trend, but older Americans are quickly joining the bandwagon.

No matter what your age, tell us today:

Do you agree with Pew’s findings?

If you use social networking sites, what effects have you seen in your life?

If not, why? Do today’s findings sway you to “take the leap”?

ABOUT GAYLE CAMPBELL: After graduating from the University of Michigan with a dual degree in Political Science and Spanish, Gayle chose to pursue her passion for civility in public dialogue as Media Director of OurValues.org.This week, Gayle is focusing on the disconnect between Millennials and older Americans, and searching for ways to improve cross-generational communication.

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