Here's Something Nice Social Media Hasn't Ruined

Social media has an uphill battle against its own reputation these days, but it's not all data breaches and alienation. In some ways, networks like Facebook have changed the way we do friendship for the better. Case in point: We've gotten way more consistent at giving gifts.

Research just published from Cornell University suggests that thanks to greater awareness of gift-giving events such as birthdays, we're giving about twice as many gifts as we did before. Professor of information science René Kizilcec examined data from a 2013 Facebook feature that offered users the option to purchase an online gift for a friend when reminded of their birthday. That wound up having a snowball effect: People who received online gifts were 56 percent more likely to reciprocate later. "On average, millennials were twice as likely to give gifts on Facebook after receiving one," Kizilcec said in a press release.

One observation that makes this study a small relief is how Kizilcec contrasts the online spread of generosity with the unmistakable parallel rise in incivility. "At a time when the spread of misinformation is in the foreground," he said, "it is especially gratifying to see strong evidence for the spread of kind and cooperative behaviors like gift-giving." So while there are plenty of good reasons to #DeleteFacebook, remember that the internet can also enable and empower good habits and human behaviors. Whether you quit social networks or not, it always pays to show appreciation and pay it forward.