People make fewer social calls to friends because of social media, according to a new survey conducted by the British government as part of its study on transportation usage.
The National Travel Survey conducted by the UK Department of Transport found that the number of visits people pay to socialize with friends has declined by a third over the last two decades, from 192 visits per year in 1995 to 136 visits in 2014. Most of the decline came in visits to other people’s homes, where the number fell from 145 to 90, while the number of meetings per year in other venues like restaurants and bars remained even.
Of course social visits aren’t the only area of activity affected by technology: the number of visits to stores has also fallen thanks to online shopping, while more people are working at home thanks to telecommuting, decreasing the volume of “real” commuting. However, the decline is most visible in social visits.
Overall, Brits made a total of 921 trips for all purposes in 2014, down 16% from around 1,100 in 1995. The number of shopping trips declined by 43 over the last twelve years, while the number of commuting trips fell by 19 over the same period.
As always, I have to wonder whether social media really provides an effective substitute for face-to-face socializing or phone conversations, especially when so much social media activity is focused on passive sharing and response -- that is, posting a photo and then someone else posting a comment, rather than active dialogue. Is social media enabling a larger volume of more superficial relationships, at the expense of deeper emotional connections?