Is Social Networking Making Your Life Better?

Is the Internet a positive force in your life or a negative one? Most of the technology experts, researchers and commentators surveyed in a recent study by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project said that it was positive, and that they believe it will continue to be so. A total of 85 percent of those surveyed by the Center agreed with the statement: “In 2020, when I look at the big picture and consider my personal friendships, marriage and other relationships, I see that the Internet has mostly been a positive force on my social world. And this will only grow more true in the future.”

The Pew Center, along with Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center, asked 895 people from the technology industry — including opinion leaders such as media analyst Clay Shirky, Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, author Nick Carr, futurist Esther Dyson and Google chief economist Hal Varian — to choose between two statements. One asked them to look back from 2020 and state that the Internet had been a positive force in their lives, and one that said the opposite. The survey was posted online, and drew from a list that the Pew Research Center maintains of technology observers.

As Om has pointed out in the past, the Pew Center’s reports are often somewhat obvious in their conclusions. It certainly isn’t surprising to see that people such as Craig Newmark and Clay Shirky — both of whom are deeply involved in the social elements of the Internet — view it as a positive force in their lives. It would be interesting to contrast the Pew study with one that sampled average Internet users about their lives in a post-Facebook, post-Twitter world. Given the highly publicized issues that Facebook and Google have had with privacy and other concerns over the past year, would more people say that the Internet has made their lives worse instead of better?

The reality, of course, is that the Internet is here to stay whether we like it or not, and is becoming more a part of our lives every day. And the growth of Facebook, with almost 500 million users, and Twitter with more than 65 million messages posted a day, is a tangible sign that these services are filling a very real need for many people. Are those and other social-media tools or social-networking services a positive thing in your life or a negative one? Take our poll, or let us know in the comments.

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d): How Facebook Should Fix Its Privacy Problem

Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Flickr user See-ming Lee

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