An Australian study has revealed the extent of penetration of facebook and other forms of online social networking into people's lives that most friendships have come to depend on it.
Those who opt out completely were now a rare breed, the poll revealed, with just three per cent of respondents aged 18 to 30 not having a Facebook profile or equivalent.
"It is really ingrained in our society now," the Sun quoted Rebecca Mathews, a researcher at the Australian Psychological Society, as saying
"It is a major change in the way we communicate. I guess the telephone being invented was another major one that is comparable," Mathews said.
Dr Mathews polled more than 1800 people and found, overall, that 86 per cent were using online social networking - the vast majority using Facebook but also sites like Twitter and RSVP - and for many it was now part of their everyday routine.
A majority of respondents said the websites gave them more regular contact with friends and family, while 79 per cent said it fostered closer ties with those living far away.
Half of users aged 18 to 30 said they would "lose contact with many of their friends if they stopped", which raises the hypothetical question of what if Facebook was ever switched off?
"I don't think we'd fall in a heap, but it would be a major adjustment," Dr Mathews said.
"Once we introduce technology we really struggle to go backwards and, overall, we do think it is a positive," Dr Mathews added.