Are we becoming more isolated because of our incessant need to be glued to our screens?
Keith Hampton, an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication at Rutgers University, doesn’t think so. In his research, Keith explores the relationship between new information and communication technologies, social networks, democratic engagement, and the urban environment.
We are thrilled to welcome Keith to the program as the academic keynote speaker at this year’s Social Media & Society 2014 Conference, happening September 27-28 in Toronto. Keith will be presenting a keynote entitle: “The Promise, Practice, and Pitfalls of Social Media” He will be joined by our industry keynote speaker, Microsoft Canada CTO John Weigelt.
As social media and other technologies become a ubiquitous part of our modern life, some researchers, such as Robert Putnam and Sherry Turkle, have suggested that we are becoming more isolated because of our increasing use of technology; Keith offers a different perspective. In a recent New York Times article “Technology is not driving us apart after all” Keith discussed his research findings which, contrary to popular beliefs, indicate that people like hanging out in public more than ever before, and those who are most incline to hang out with others are people using technologies such as smartphones.
Keith has also examined how people interact on social media sites, such as Facebook. In a PEW Internet and American Life Project study he and his colleagues found that users get more than they give on Facebook. In other words, we get more “friend” requests than we send, we receive more messages than we send, and we are “liked” more than we “like” (Hampton et al., 2012). The team also found that making friends on Facebook is associated with higher levels of social support (Hampton et al., 2012).
So what does Keith’s research mean for the everyday social media user? We are not necessarily becoming more isolated because of our increasing use of technology, such as cellphones, and we may actually feel more social support by interacting with our Facebook friends.