Social Media Does Not Displace Face-to-Face Communication With Family and Friends Interview with:

Jeffrey A. Hall, Ph.D. Associate Professor The University of Kansas

Dr. Hall

Jeffrey A. Hall, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
The University of Kansas
Relationships and Technology Lab What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: The idea that new forms of media displace our face-to-face relationships with close friends and family is an old idea.  Two decades ago, when the internet experienced a period of rapid growth, the most recent form of the social displacement hypothesis emerged. Studies from that time ended up finding little to no evidence of displacement by the internet.

The main findings of this study focus on displacement by social media.  The first study was conducted with a longitudinal, nationally representative sample of Americans from 2009-2011.  This study found that during a period of rapid social media adoption, there was little to no association between adopting and using social media and direct social contact over the three years of the study.  Furthermore, using more social media did not result in lowered well-being.

The second study in this paper looked at data from 2015, and found that using social media in a day had little bearing on who people communicated with and how they communicated. That is, passive social media use did not seem to displaced face-to-face communication with close friends and family. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Readers should treat claims that suggest social media is ruining or harming our face-to-face relationships with close others with skepticism.

However, readers should also know that this study does not claim that there are no harms of using social media or social media use is beneficial.  It just isn’t bad in the way people think it is. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: There is a long standing pattern in our society to worry about the effects of new media.  We were concerned about the internet, then social media, and now smart phone applications.  This pattern suggests that during periods of rapid media adoption, this anxiety is normal.  But, people should be cautious when considering claims that social media has a large impact on our face-to-face relationships.


Jeffrey A. Hall, Michael W. Kearney & Chong Xing (2018) Two tests of social displacement through social media use, Information, Communication & Society, DOI: 10.1080/1369118X.2018.1430162

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Last Updated on March 2, 2018 by Marie Benz MD FAAD