The Pew Internet & American Life Project recently released a study on the social and emotional life of adults on social networking sites. What were some of the findings?

  • 85% of social networking site-using adults say their experience on the sites is that people are mostly kind
  • 68% said that they had an experience that made them feel good about themselves
  • 61% said they had an experience that made them feel closer to another person
  • 39% said they frequently see acts of generosity by other users

In the report, the authors go on to say:

"We asked all the online adults in our sample if they had ever decided not to post something online because they were concerned that it might reflect badly on them and 45% reported they had made that kind of decision.

Among the online adults who were most likely to decide not to post something because of its impact on their reputation: Millennials (59%), those who live in households earning $75,000 or more (54%), and those with college degrees (51%)."

How do you respond to the challenge of the Facebook status update, the fill-in-the-blank of "What's on your mind?"

Do you say what's really on your mind?

I know I haven't been. What's been on my mind over the past couple of weeks, as I've posted about a range of relatively safe topics, is something hard to fit inside that little white box. Many of my friends are going through extremely difficult times. Many are facing experiences you never think you'll go through when you imagine growing up. I'm thinking of these friends constantly. They're all that's on my mind.

Usually I would recommend to someone in my shoes getting off Facebook, picking up the phone, going to visit a friend in person.

But, I feel compelled to try to prove a point I've been attempting to make in different ways over the last three years. Can social media be used for good?

What can you say, via Facebook, to be one of the people who creates an act of generosity that others can witness? What can you do to use Facebook to feel closer to another person?

You - and I - can use all the features of Facebook - the "like," the comment, the poke, the private message, the Wall - and thoughtfully reach out to friends. You can, as was done in the past, put the words you'd put on a handwritten note (remember the notes we dropped in each other's lockers, the pen pals, the letters sent from camp?) on Facebook, publicly or privately or both.

What I've often seen as so powerful about Facebook - its power to reach so many so quickly with such brief flickers of thoughts and ideas - is just not as useful when it comes to providing support to friends. To support my friends, I have to use Facebook not as a social network, but as 487 little mailboxes that go directly into my friends' lives. I - and you - have to be actively engaged, not just browsing status updates, but giving - giving support, giving compassion, giving as authentically as possibly from behind a keyboard and a screen.

I'm committing to use Facebook in this way. Can you?

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