The list of critics who think that the Internet and social media are isolating and disconnecting us -- even as we seem to be connecting -- is long. The latest is novelist Stephen Marche, who asks in the May issue of The Atlantic, "Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?" Similar fears are expressed in the books "Alone Together" by MIT psychologist Sherry Turkle, "You Are Not a Gadget" by virtual-reality inventor Jason Lanier and "Against the Machine:
Yet a recent survey of 15,000 women about their use of social media affirmed the largely positive role it plays in their lives. Most surprising in the study by Women's Marketing Inc. and SheSpeaks is the finding that 30 percent of the women said social media has made them more social offline.
If women use social media to increase offline social activities, it's a good thing, even the Atlantic article admits. "So if social media let you organize a game of football among your friends, that 's healthy. If you turn to social media instead of playing football, however, that 's unhealthy," Marche writes.
Of course, many women's lives were already full to bursting before social media came along. Is the pressure to update and comment, and keep up with what others are posting, overwhelming and stressful?
Here the answers are more nuanced, but still positive. Only 8 percent said they are overwhelmed. The majority, 48 percent, said it is a little of both -- they feel both delightfully in touch and a little overstimulated at times. But almost as big a group, 42 percent, said they feel delightfully in touch and in tune.
This makes sense if you look at women's answers to other questions in the survey. Women are finding ways that social media can make their lives easier and more efficient. Seventy-two percent of women say they use social media to connect different parts of their lives. They integrate disparate roles -- family, work and personal –- online. They use social media to connect -- whether with friends, family or brands. All of this is making it easier to socialize.
Connecting with others is the main reason women are on social media in the first place. Less important is "expressing themselves." Here are some typical quotes from the survey in which women express how they feel about social media:
"Social media brings us all together in a way never imagined, but everything in moderation."
"It is enlightening to realize the different tastes, knowledge and circumstances that are outside of my traditional circles."
"I feel like I am closer to my friends now."
"I am more in contact with everyone on a daily basis and more in the know."
Maybe it will turn out that men use social media differently -- perhaps as a substitute for real-life social interaction. But as far as women are concerned, it's a positive force for good that connects various aspects of their fragmented and busy lives. Social media helps women integrate disparate roles and relationships and stay in touch with others.