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Why Social Networking is getting real

The last month has seen countless reports in the media claiming that advances in modern technology and the internet are leading to loneliness amongst Britons who, in turn, are finding it harder to meet new people and engage on a meaningful level. However, industry insiders are now hitting back and insisting that social media and mobile communications, far from isolating people, actually go a long way towards bringing people together in the ‘offline’ world and that we are on the brink of a revolution in the way we use the web.

The latest support for these predictions comes from trendwatching, one of the world’s leading consumer trends firms. They most recently forecast the burgeoning need of web users for ‘real world’ meet-ups, driven by the social media boom and mobile communications, and predict that this is set to go mainstream. They also foresee that 'online' brands will have to further embrace ‘offline’, by building a temporary or permanent, physical presence in the real world.

One company that is successfully bridging the gap between ‘virtual’ and ‘real-world’ connections is CitySocialising, the UK’s first events-based networking website dedicated to 25 – 40 year old ‘urbanites’ which boasts an active offline community at the core of its business model. Here, users can connect with new local friends with shared interests online and then cement these connections offline by socialising in person at events and activities taking place in their city.

Sanchita Saha CEO and Founder or CitySocialising commented:

“We believe the popularity of our service is growing because CitySocialising impacts on people’s everyday lives. It reaches real people who want to meet genuine new friends and translates their online experience into real world social experiences and friendships. We in Britain are spending 65% more time online than three years ago and the time spent on social networks has accounted for the biggest share of this increase. We now spend 82% more time on social networks than we did a year ago, and yet although we’re more connected than ever before*, we’re actually feeling more isolated and lonely than ever before too - so it’s a natural progression for the social networking trend to spill over into demand for using the internet to make more meaningful offline social connections.’’

Facebook is celebrated for being one of the pioneering social media websites; it has received huge success since its launch in 2004 and today dominates the online networking space. However, moving forward into an age where masters of the industry, including respected technology investor Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures**, predict that the next generation of web services will need to have an impact on the real world and the real economy, are Facebook doing enough to break new ground in the “web meets world”*** movement

Todays report from Oxygen Media**** would suggest not - the results found that although women are increasingly claiming to have a Facebook ‘addiction’, 50% are happy to be friends with complete strangers online and would not trust Facebook with their private information, which indicates that the majority of users are restricting their experience to online activity alone.

CitySocialisingconducted its own survey of their members to understand their Facebook habits and the extent to which the network had an impact offline. The results found that although the average Facebook user has around 137 ‘online’ friends, they class only 24 (less than 20%) of those as “real” and admitted to seeing only 10% of those friends on a regular basis. Just under half of Facebook users admitted that they wouldn’t be able to find someone they’d want to go out with when browsing through their first 15 friends on Facebook.

Sanchita Saha CEO of City Socialising said:

“Facebook has been one of the internet’s biggest success stories and is incredibly important to our users to keep up to date and in touch with their friends. But in terms of meeting new people and new friends, Facebook is just not satisfying that need and we’re finding that more and more people are looking elsewhere on the internet for a way to develop real, meaningful friendships and new social connections. I think moving forward it’s important for sites like Facebook and other industry leaders to heed the warnings that the web is changing and that its real impact will ultimately be in its ability to make a difference to people offline.”

-Ends –

*Nielsen 2009
**Union Square Ventures are a New York Tech VC fund, and investors in Twitter, Zynga and Foursquare
*** term coined by technology commentator John Battelle
**** Survey of over 1500 adults (Link to Oxygen report)

About CitySocialising

CitySocialising is the UK’s leading socialising network and community for young professionals to meet people and find new friends with shared interests both online and offline through group social events and activities. Pioneering the convergence of virtual and real world networking, CitySocialising originated in London, and now spans 49 cities across the UK & Scotland with over 60,000 members.

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