There has been a ton of research around the negative effects social media platforms like Facebook have on an individual’s real social life; however, two recent studies, both headed by Jeffrey Hall, associate professor, University of Kansas, which may be able to dismiss this idea.
Referred to as the social displacement theory, the concept is that the more time an individual spends on social media, the less they are likely socialize with friends within a real setting.
Medical News Today reveals that this idea applies to both active social media interaction (messaging friends via social media apps, versus picking up the phone or meeting with them in real-time) and passive social media use (i.e. scrolling down feeds while at a party or gathering with friends).
This theory also indicates that the reduced social real-life interaction ends up making an individual miserable.
Still, the study team decided to dive into this social displacement theory, and how it relates to social media, with two research studies, where Study 1 gathered information from the Longitudinal Study of American Youth, conducted from 2009 to 2011.
They researchers reviewed data to determine if there was a connection between ‘direct’ social interaction (i.e. hanging out with friends outside the home, phone conversations, and group activity, excluding religious events) and social media use.
As Hall notes that the data pertained to Generation-Xers and questions around their use of social media were asked at a time when Facebook was hitting its peak of adoption among the public, with the main users of that time being Gen-Xers.
Interestingly enough, Hall stated that during the increased time of social media adoption, there was not a sudden decrease around these individual’s real-life social interactions.
For Study 2, Hall and his researchers questioned over 100 participants around their use of social media, as well as their social interaction, five times daily, for five consecutive days.
What was found was that social media users did not experience social displacement during this time. Hall noted that if they were on social media during the early part of the day, it didn’t necessarily mean they were likelier to not engage in social interaction activities at night.
So, while Hall feels that social media isn’t all that bad, and has not displaced real-life social interaction for people, he does believe that the platforms may have replaced traditional ways that people gain information; that is, rather than picking up the newspaper, individuals are logging on to their Twitter to see what is going on in the world.
As with any study, Hall and his colleagues believe more research is needed; however, both of the above studies certainly do challenge the social displacement concept when it comes to social media.