Have a computer, Internet connection, and no Facebook profile? Now you're the weirdo outcast. In a new study done by the Pew Research Center, collections of data from thousands of participants showed that people who use social networking services are now not only likely to have larger networks than those who don't, but also have more close friends. The authors of the study don't cite technology as the cause of our newfound friendliness, but those inclined toward social connections are now more likely to be online and networking than not.

In comparing the new study to one conducted in 2008, Pew found that almost twice as many people are using social networks as before. But the 2008 survey also found that there had been a decline in the size and diversity of people's close relationships as a whole, not necessarily related to Internet use.

According to the new survey, close relationships have bounced back, with American people reporting an average of just over two (2.16) close friends, an increase over 2008's 1.93 close friend average. But Internet users lead the increase, averaging 2.26 close confidants to offline people's 1.75. Those who use social networks have 2.45 close friends, and the data also showed that today's average social networking site user is half as likely to report having no close confidants as non-Internet users.

On scales of social support, Internet users won out over offline people. On a scale of 100, Internet users averaged scores 3 points higher in total social support, while heavy Facebook users averaged scores of 5 points higher.

Source: ars technica
http://arstechnica.com/web/news/2011/06/internet-users-now-have-more-and-closer-friends-than-those-offline.ars