Young adults in Generation X are as likely to connect with friends, family and co-workers online as they are in person, according to a U-M study.
In a typical month, adults in their late 30s report that they engaged in about 75 face-to-face contacts or conversations, compared to about 74 electronic contracts through personal emails or social media.
“Given the speed of emerging technologies, it is likely that electronic contacts will continue to grow in the years ahead, eventually exceeding face-to-face interactions,” says Jon D. Miller, author of the latest issue of The Generation X Report.
“But the young adults in Generation X are currently maintaining a healthy balance between personal and electronic social networking.”
Miller directs the Longitudinal Study of American Youth (LSAY) at the Institute for Social Research. The study has been funded by the National Science Foundation since 1986, and the current report includes responses from 3,027 Gen Xers interviewed in 2011.
According to Miller, studying Gen X social networks is important because these networks, sometimes referred to as “social capital,” are a vital component of the quality of life.
“The size and composition of personal networks is both a reflection of cumulative advantage over years and decades, and an indicator of the resources available to get ahead and deal with problems or challenges that may arise,” Miller says.
In addition to finding a rough parity between personal and electronic networks, Miller found that young adults who completed bachelors or advanced degrees tended to have larger social networks. He also found that survey participants who did not complete high school relied more heavily on traditional personal networks, and less on electronic networking.
Somewhat surprisingly, males reported more personal contacts than females in the course of a typical month — 86 compared to 65. This difference reflects the larger number of hours men reported spending at work, according to Miller.
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“The Skin of Our Teeth,” 7:30 p.m. Feb. 21, 8 p.m. Feb 22 and 23, and 2 p.m. Feb. 24, Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre.