You might say that you don’t care whether your friend Sally checked into the bar tonight, or that your friend John commented on a photo of you, or that your friend Mark posted a super clever comment about your status update, but these seemingly worthless interactions are important for our social relationships according to a new report from the National IT User Center at Uppsala University.

Doctoral Candidate Håkan Selg of Uppsala University (in Sweden) compiled a report showing that the meaningless comments and updates from and to your Facebook “friends” are actually the cornerstone of highly useful networks.

“The portrait, comments, and updates provide constant reminders of the existence of ‘friends.’ The content is not all that important, but the effect is that we perceive our Facebook friends as closer than other acquaintances who are not on Facebook,” explains Selg.

In the report, Selg also highlights how the implications of the social media trend, which runs counter to the previous trends in our information society, will change society. Before, it was companies and public authorities (such as government officials) who used new technology first. This was the trend with cell phones, e-mail, and web pages.

In contrast, social media is driven by the public, with brands and governments jumping on the trend bandwagon much later. Social media gives power to the private individual that companies and governments want to have access to.

The individual now has more power through social media, including access to information about jobs, housing, and small business owners who can help with practical problems and contacts, than ever before. This allows individuals with limited economic resources to connect with more people, publish articles free of charge, and establish foundations for their own activities. As a result, Selg predicts social media will lead to a future of more individual entrepreneurs.

“A realistic effect of social media is that many costs of running operations will decline in the long run. This will probably enable more people to start their own businesses in the future, thus successively altering working life,” says Selg.

What do you think? How is social networking changing society? What are your predictions for the future?

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Natasha Murashev is the author of PsychWorld.com, a digital publication focused on applied psychology.

Article image via Huffington Post.