Even though we spend a lot of our time following people or chatting with them on social media sites such as Facebook, such virtual interactions are unlikely to take the place of real face-to-face conversations any time soon, new research has reassured.
We still value face-to-face time with close friends for the purpose of talking and using social media does not make people feel connected as much as real social interactions does, the study said.
"All of this worry that we're seeking out more and more social interaction on Facebook is not true. Most interactions are face to face, and most of what we consider social interaction is face to face," said Jeffrey Hall, Associate Professor at University of Kansas.
"People feel a sense of relatedness when they're interacting face to face, but using social media does not make them feel connected," Hall noted.
According to Hall, social media is more like old-fashioned people-watching. "Liking" something is similar to a head nod. It's not social interaction, but it is acknowledging you are sharing space with someone else.
"Keeping tabs on other people sharing our social spaces is normal and part of what it means to be human," Hall said.
In his current paper published in the journal New Media & Society, Hall details three studies.
The first demonstrates that when using social media, most of us are engaged in passive behaviours that we do not consider social interaction, like browsing others' profiles and reading news articles.
Chatting and commenting -- things that we would even consider social interaction -- are but 3.5 per cent of our time on social media, the study showed.
The second diary study demonstrates that most of what we consider social interaction with people in our close circle of friends happens face to face. When interaction with these close others is through social media, it is not something passive like browsing or "liking" but rather using chat or instant message functions.
The third study showed that people reported 98 per cent of their social interactions took some other way than through social media.
All three studies, Hall said, circle around the idea that we still value face-to-face time with close friends for the purpose of talking.
"If we want to have a conversation, we're not using social media to do it," he said.