Facebook is often criticised for devaluing relationships with other people, but a new study by the Cystic Fibrosis Trust has discovered the ways in which the social network has altered the way we behave online, and just how vital online relationships are for some people.
“For most people, the internet is a way of keeping in touch with loved ones and friends, but for people who are isolated due to illness, it plays a more vital role and can often act as a lifeline,” says Helen Oxley, consultant clinical psychologist at the Manchester Adult Cystic Fibrosis Centre. “People with illnesses often rely on the internet’s ability to facilitate friendships as they blog and use networking sites as a way of coming to terms with, and dealing with, their illness. It can foster a sense of social connection for those who can frequently feel isolated.”
According to the study, the average person has half the amount of ‘physical’ friends than online friends, but it also claims people are more open, confident and honest with their ‘virtual’ friends.
The report also gives an insight into how the way we make friends is changing. Nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of the 4,427 adults asked claimed that they were more likely to ask for a new acquaintances’ email address or full name to add them on Facebook; only five per cent would ask for a person’s phone number.