Among the many ironies of our modern digital lives, one of the more amusing is that social media is actually sort of anti-social when you consider its tendency to displace “real” face-to-face communication. But maybe it’s not so ironic after all: a new survey suggests that people consciously favor social media to other forms of communication, implying a deliberate choice to be, well, antisocial.
Swedish furniture giant IKEA polled 12,000 people in 12 big cities around the world and found that 68% of respondents said they prefer communicating with other people online – and that includes people in their own home (the classic scenario of messaging someone in the living room from the kitchen).
On that note, 26% of respondents ages 18-29 said they think having Wi-Fi is more important than a lounge room where they can entertain guests who visit in corporeal, physical form – a proportion that rises to 49% among respondents from Shanghai. Similarly 19% of all respondents think online contact is more important than inviting friends over.
In fairness, the preference for online communication – even with someone in the same home – may more reflect the need for privacy in a cramped living situation than any antisocial tendencies: 25% of respondents said if they had an extra hour per day to spend any way they wanted, they would choose to be alone.
Other phenomena sound more familiar: 16% of respondents said they check social media in the bathroom (maybe a privacy issue again?) and 40% said they check social media when they wake up in the middle of the night.
Returning to in-home socializing, last year 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. Researchers attributed this change in part to the rise of social media.