Fun With Headlines: Is Social Networking Good Or Bad For Friendship?
from the how-about-neither... dept
Headline writers for the press are always trying to generate some attention, but it’s amusing when they present a headline that seems to go entirely against what’s said in the actual article. Professor Nancy Baym, who has been studying the power of online communities, discovered this when her latest research was released. Marketwatch ran a press release about her research declaring: Social networking, not for real friends, which certainly seems attention grabbing, if it were not for the fact that her research doesn’t say that at all. What the research actually notes is that you may have weak relationships focused on a narrow topic, with folks you connect with on various social networks — but it also notes how that’s a good thing. She doesn’t say that social networks aren’t for real friends, even if that’s what the headline reads.
Amusingly, another article covering the exact same bit of research runs with a different headline: Facebook friend collectors ‘are normal’ — (suggesting the opposite of the Marketwatch headline) and quoting Baym:
"You can ask somebody, ‘Of your 300 Facebook friends how many are actually friends?’ and people will say, ‘Oh, 30 or 40 or 50.’ But what having a lot of weak-tie relationships is giving you access to are a lot of resources that you wouldn’t otherwise have…. They can really open up access to resources that we wouldn’t have otherwise."
That doesn’t sound like "social networking isn’t for real friends" at all. But, apparently, accuracy doesn’t make for as good a headline sometimes. Then we’ve got USA Today, which seems to totally contradict the Marketwatch headline, by noting: For teens, a friend online is usually a friend offline, too. Apparently, the people at Marketwatch and at USA Today seemed to think they were reading different studies.