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People Are Actually Nice Online. No, Really.

The other day some idiot did what I like to call a “online drive by” move; I’d never seen him before, I didn’t know who he was, he called me a name and left. No big deal, happens all the time online, right?

Apparently not.

According to a new Pew survey, the vast majority of adults have positive experiences online, and find social media immensely rewarding. This fascinating study was completed between July and August, and over 1,700 heavy users of social media were interviewed by phone. The best part? Apparently, not only are people nice in social media, they are actually KIND.

According to the study:

85% of SNS-using adults say that their experience on the sites is that people are mostly kind, compared with 5% who say people they observe on the sites are mostly unkind and another 5% who say their answer depends on the situation.

These survey results contrast sharply with a separate study done by Pew a few months prior, which showed that teenagers saw a lot less kindness online 69% positive, and nearly 20% negative. Significant, that, but then adults are better at keeping some nastiness to themselves. Not all, of course.

One interesting point was revealed in the study; apparently, having access to social networks allows people to witness MORE acts of kindness than they do in real life.

39% of SNS-using adults say they frequently see acts of generosity by other SNS users and another 36% say they sometimes see others behaving generously and helpfully. By comparison, 18% of SNS-using adults say they see helpful behavior “only once in a while” and 5% say they never see generosity exhibited by others on social networking sites.

I found this element of the study fascinating; I often feel a bit of a compassion fatigue on my social networks, that I’m being bombarded with tragedy and feel overwhelmed at having to react to it all. It is true, however, that being bombarded by tragedy allows me the opportunity to see people come together to support, to lift up, and to help people all the time. In my time online I’ve witnessed more amazingly altruistic acts than I’ve ever seen in person.

What a gift!

What do you think? Does social media represent kindness to you?

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