Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The end of the boy scouts? New Pew data on internet use and social networks

Pew just released a new study on Social Isolation and New Technologies.  Among the more interesting punch lines:
"... Americans are not as isolated as has been previously reported. People’s use of the mobile phone and the internet is associated with larger and more diverse discussion networks. And ... internet use in general and use of social networking services such as Facebook in particular are associated with more diverse social networks."
This is good news, given much of the research I have conducted with colleagues at Cornell and Wisconsin that showed positive impacts of having more diverse discussion networks on political knowledge and participation (e.g., here, here, and here).

The downside of the Pew data: Internet use and use of social networking sites also undermined social support in face-to-face settings, such as family support or helping our neighbors. In short: We may be sharing pictures and status updates with a more diverse and geographically dispersed set of friends, but we're not helping the old lady down the hallway bring in her groceries.

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