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There are quite a few users who are pretty much addicted to the Stack Exchange network and spend over 3-4 hours per day here. Time spent here will result in lower amount of social interactions, and lesser time for other activities as well.

What are the effects that this has on the social skills of a person ?

In a way, we are all interacting with other individuals on this platform as well, but the communications are mostly textual and in a way, buffered (for lack of a better term). So, its safe to say that spending half an hour interacting with individuals here will be very different from interacting with individuals face-to-face. In such a scenario, what are expected and/or observed effects on communication abilities.

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Just a thought: interacting with others without being able to look at their face(ex: VoiP, Mumble, Ventrillo) would not trigger the person's "mirror neurons", thus the emotions of the other person's would be harder to understand. Text only communication (forums, emails, reddit) makes it very easy to misinterpret messages in a negative light. –  Alex Stone Mar 6 '13 at 16:00
    
Great idea, @AlexStone. You might use this to explain part of the misunderstandings and aggressiveness that goes on online. (I almost wanted to write "..., you fool!" as an ironic illustration of my point, but that would very likely have started one of those wars that I refer to). I learned to use smileys the hard way :-) –  user1196 Mar 8 '13 at 17:01
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There seems to be a difference between social community users and non-users (e.g. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2013.01.026), but these are only correlative data, not causative, but in a recent study "Facebook usage was found to interact with measures of psychological well-being, suggesting that it might be beneficial to students experiencing low self-esteem and low life satisfaction." (http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0144929X.2010.550063)

This is just a quick hint and doesn't comprehensively answer your question, but maybe the articles contain references to other research.

Follow the links to get to the original publications and a short abstract describing the study and results.


More stuff I found through a Google Scholar search for "online communities effects":

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC411092/ http://repository.maestra.net/valutazione/MaterialeSarti/articoli/Johnson-Survey.pdf etc.

I don't know, if any of this is relevant, I just want to give you ideas to do your own research.

If you access Google Scholar through a university network, you'll get links to most of the articles, otherwise you'll still be able to read most of the abstracts.

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Facebook was not what I had in mind as it is more of a social network and more often than not, conversations/connections there do turn into or start from real interactions and relationships (atleast for me, dont know about people with 1000+ friends). It is very different from a completely online and largely anonymous community in terms of behavior and activity, IMO. –  AsheeshR Mar 8 '13 at 16:32
    
I agree, this is only what came to mind because it came in on my Google Reader alerts recently. Nevertheless, the literature I quoted might contain helpful hints to relevant research. These are at least experts in a closely related field, and they might touch upon your field in the explication of their theory or in their discussion. You might want to at least quickly scan the texts to see if there is something there for you. Also, you can do a Google Scholar search, if no-one knows anything in particular here. –  user1196 Mar 8 '13 at 16:56
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