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Gen X Split Between Personal and Electronic Interaction

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Lest you think social media is strictly the domain of tech-savvy millennials, think again. A new study of Generation X adults shows that those in their 30s and 40s use online social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, for about half of their communications with co-workers, friends and family.

Researchers at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research surveyed over 3,000 Gen Xers and found that they engaged in 74 electronic contacts via email and social media in an average month, compared with 75 face-to-face contacts and conversations.

"This is the first generation of Americans to reach adulthood at the beginning of the Electronic Era. So it's understandable that they should show a substantial mix of traditional and electronic networking,” said Jon D. Miller, author of the latest issue of The Generation X Report.

The study shows some disparities in the use of social media based on level of education and gender. Most notably, the adults who have a bachelor’s degree or higher academic achievement tend to have larger social networks , both online and off, while Gen Xers with no high school diploma run in smaller social circles and rely more heavily on traditional personal networks.

The study also found that men reported more face-to-face interactions per month than did women of the same age group, a difference Miller attributed to the larger amount of hours men reported spending at work.

The women of Generation X , on the other hand, reported spending more time using online social media and also were more likely to spend time visiting family and friends and volunteering in their communities.

"Given the speed of emerging technologies, it is likely that electronic contacts will continue to grow in the years ahead, eventually exceeding face-to-face interactions," Miller said. "But the young adults in Generation X are currently maintaining a healthy balance between personal and electronic social networking."

Elizabeth Peterson

Elizabeth writes about innovative technologies and business trends. She has traveled throughout the Americas in her roles as student, English teacher, Spanish language interpreter and freelance writer. She graduated with a B.A. in International Affairs from the George Washington University.