Social networking: Young adults searching for a way to connect

Number of Utah young adults is growing

Published: Sunday, March 24 2013 2:20 p.m. MDT

Wright is open to meeting people at the gym, workout classes, dance clubs, church, alumni events, the grocery store, the mall, even the gas station. For Wright, such arenas facilitate a social network of friends with different interests and strengths.

“You don't just spend your time with people exactly like you and only do the things you really like,” Wright said.

Being open and receptive can provide sometimes unexpected benefits.

“This network will be great for finding a job, learning about fun activities happening in your local area, introducing you to people to date, and will help you expand your interests,” Wright said.

Salt Lake resident Lacey Bruschke recognized a need for community when she started a downtown fitness studio called Dash in 2009.

"We believe in the power of many, versus one," Bruschke said. "That's why we opened a studio of group fitness classes, which cater to people looking to expand their social network."

Bruschke said being involved in a hobby shared with others can be good fuel for a social setting.

"There is a lot of connection when your dancing or running with someone," Bruschke said. "Entering that realm can open the door to an entire community of potential friends." 

And it doesn't stop there. Hiking, running, and professional networking are among the top social arenas in Salt Lake, according to Alex Finger, a Meetup community specialist, an online site that connects people with like interests through groups.

Among many sites and community hubs, Meetup is another resource working to revitalize local community and connect people by announcing gatherings.

"Everyone has a time in their life when they need to reach out to others," Finger said. 

Online networking

In today’s world, networking extends beyond physical interaction. Between February 2005 and August 2006, the use of social networking sites among U.S. young adult internet users ages 18 to 29 escalated from 9 percent to 49 percent, according to a 2012 Pew Research Center survey

It has since continued to rise steadily. By December 2012, 83 percent of young adults reportedly were using social networking sites.

When 27-year-old Petey Aldous moved from Provo to Salt Lake City in 2010, he had 2,000 Facebook friends, but knew nobody in his Salt Lake apartment complex.

He has since formed a strong social network.

“I still have lonely days and nights,” Aldous said. “But, as a rule, I do feel deeply connected wherever I go.”

For Aldous, online networking has been instrumental in catering to his social life.

“Facebook is a common way for me to find out about (social events), especially when the hosts aren't people I know well,” Aldous said.

But Facebook, Aldous says, is only useful as a catalyst to seeing people face-to-face.

“It's generally agreed that Facebook is for people one has met in person,” Aldous said. “If I met someone in a way that didn't give that person sufficient motivation to trust me, I'd rather meet in a public place so that that person could feel and be safe.”

Johnson agrees. Social networks such as Facebook are merely complements to the offline sphere.

“It’s an introduction point,” she said. “Real relationships happen offline. That’s where the true intimacy of any type of relationship happens.”

Maintaining ties

Today, Jacobs said she has many social ties in San Jose.

She joined a local gym and created a running blog, where she has since made many friends who share her interest in health and fitness.

“I became actively involved in places that cater to people of similar interests,” Jacobs said. “I started chatting with a girl who worked out on the elliptical next to me at the same time everyday, and we became such good friends that I later attended her wedding.”

For Jacobs, maintaining those ties is just as important. "With anything in life, being surrounded by people makes your life richer and better."

“It’s simple. If you want more love in your life, give it away,” Johnson said. “It’s not about finding someone, as much as opening yourself up to everyone.” 

E-mail: rlowry@deseretnews.com

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