A Victoria University researcher says warnings about social media must be countered with praise about its benefits of creating a more engaged world.
Professor John Zeleznikow of VU’s Centre for Cultural Diversity and Wellbeing is leading a series of projects about how social media effects the way we take part in relationships.
A preliminary study of nearly 100 university students indicated about one-third spent at least 20 hours a week online, and just over half were permanently logged on.
However despite perceptions that such frequent use was bad for relationships, about 93 percent of the students said they spent the same or even more time keeping in touch with family and friends as a result of being online.
“Far from damaging social connections as many think, the study shows social media use encourages better and stronger communication, when such a relationship already exists,” he says.
Another study with Russian Jewish residents in an aged care home who had families spread across the world showed they felt less isolated once they received regular social media training.
Their feelings contrasted with a control group of similar residents who only had visits from a researcher without social media training to see if the visits made the difference.
However he pointed out that these elderly subjects felt distressed if social media was used to replace personal contact of people they normally saw.
“For this group, social media needs to complement relationships, not be a substitute for it.”
Professor Zeleznikow said other examples of positive use of social media that would have been unimaginable five years ago include:
- connecting with others with similar hobbies or interests;
- finding support groups for the disabled or with chronic conditions;
- reuniting with physically distant friends and family.
Professor Zeleznikow is also a professor in VU's College of Business.
Professor John Zeleznikow is available for interview on 0432 154 217 or [email protected]
Ann Marie Angebrandt, 03 99195487 or [email protected]