Is social media ruining the world?

Dramatic political polarization. Rising anxiety and depression. An uptick in teen suicide rates. Misinformation that spreads like wildfire.

The common denominator of all these phenomena is that they’re fueled in part by our seemingly innocuous participation in digital social networking. But how can simple acts like sharing photos and articles, reading the news, and connecting with friends have such destructive consequences?

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A new study released by comScore showed that the collective reach of vertical ad networks tracked by comScore has increased substantially in the past year, from 21.5 percent of the total U.S. Internet audience in March 2008 to 57.1 percent in March 2009.

Vertical ad networks target ads to specific audiences online according to demographic or category content, which are effective in reaching people with significantly higher than average engagement in their respective content categories.

Of the different segments studied, people reached by vertical ad networks spent at least 60 percent more time in those site categories than the average category visitor. For example, people reached in the Entertainment segment spent approx. 418 minutes per visitor on sites in that category, whereas the average visitor only spends 191 minutes.

More information on the study can be found on comScore’s website.

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