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RISMEDIA, October 26, 2010—Relationships mean different things to different people. For some, connecting with a friend—even if it is just on a social network—means they are keeping in touch. For others, keeping in touch means actually seeing and interacting with a friend, not just chatting online. But regardless of how Americans do it, are they more connected today than in the past? Almost three in five online adults (57%) say they feel more connected to people now than they did previously and 56% say they find they keep in touch more with friends now than in the past.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,258 adults surveyed online between September 1 and 3, 2010 by Harris Interactive.

Although Americans who are online may feel more connected, they are not actually seeing people more. Almost three in five online adults (58%) say they know what’s going on with their friends and acquaintances, but don’t interact with them personally or individually, and a majority (54%) say that recently, they have had less face-to-face contact with friends.

As might be expected, there are some age differences. Younger Americans (those 18-34) are more likely than those 55 and older to find they keep in touch with more friends now than in the past (63% vs. 52%) and to feel more connected to people now (63% vs. 53%). But the flip side is also true, as those 18-34 are more likely than those 55 and older to say they have had less face-to-face contact with friends (56% vs. 49%), and, while they know what’s going on with friends, they don’t interact with them personally or individually (60% vs. 54%).

Being Connected
Almost nine in ten online Americans (87%) use social media and, of these, there are different levels of connection they feel with various groups. Over half say they feel very connected or connected to close friends (58%) and immediate family (52%), while 42% say they feel this way about extended family through their social media use. Around one-third of social media users feel connected or very connected through social media to friends of friends and/or acquaintances (36%) and old classmates (32%). For business, the same feeling of connection is not quite there yet, as only one in five social media users (19%) say they feel very connected or connected through social media use to business associates.

Social media users also have preferences for how they want to connect with people. More than two in five social media users (44%) say that, in general, they prefer to interact with acquaintances using social media rather than face-to-face, but 23% say the same about interacting with friends and 19% say so about interacting with family. But, this is very age driven, as well. Three in five 18-34 year olds (59%) say they prefer to interact with acquaintances using social media rather than face-to-face compared to 38% of those 45-54 years old and 25% of those 55 and older.

It’s getting harder to remember a time when people didn’t “friend” or “follow” someone and have that mean electronically, not in person. And, on the whole, social media users seem to be the better for it, connecting with friends and old classmates that they probably wouldn’t have gotten in touch with before social networks. Then, there is the argument that connecting online could actually harm relationships and make people feel more isolated, though just 31% of Americans and 32% of social media users say they feel lonelier now than they did previously.

For more information, visit www.harrisinteractive.com.

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