What Do People Think About When They Think About Social Sites?

By Rebecca J. Rosen

The complaints about social-networking sites are familiar: They are time-wasters. Facebook is cavalier with our private information. Twitter shrinks complex ideas down into too-brief bits. And so on.

But despite these concerns, the bottom line is that people like social networking -- that's why 750 million people are active Facebook users. A new study from Pew adds some texture to such statistics. Researchers asked people to use one word to describe their experiences on sites such as Facebook or LinkedIn. Most of their responses were positive but unenthusiastic, such as "good." Neutral responses such as "okay" were common as well. Negative words made up about 20 percent of the responses and sometimes included expletives, though the researchers fail to note which expletives specifically.

Below, a word cloud of the top words people used to describe their social-networking experience.

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Image: Pew Internet & American Life Project.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2011/08/what-do-people-think-about-when-they-think-about-social-sites/244305/