The unspoken assumption in much of corporate America is that employees, when left to their own devices, will likely abuse social networking privileges while at work and harm company reputation.

Salesforce Rypple (via research from Pew Internet) set out to find just how badly people behave on social media and came up with some unexpected findings. The Pew research team studied the socio-emotional aspect of social networking to see how teens and adults interact on the social Web.

Among the findings:

  • 69% of teens and 85% of adults feel that people are kind on the social Web.
  • 58% of teens and 61% of adults feel that social networking made them feel closer to another person.

More than half of folks surveyed credit social network participation with improved self-esteem and stronger bonds with others.

Negativity that does exist on social networks tends to involve teenagers more than adults.

  • 73% of adults said they encountered offensive material only once in a while or never on social networks.
  • 84% of adults said they would never join in or participate in mean or offensive behavior on social networks.

An overwhelming majority of people already practice respectful use of social networks, and so corporate social media policies can typically afford to be less strident or controlling, according to Salesforce Rypple’s reading of the data.

See the following infographic for additional findings.