Social Isolation and New Technology

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Pew Internet & American Life Project

Research findings in 2006 found that the number of core discussion networks had declined and become less diverse, especially because of new forms of technology such as the Internet and mobile phones. A current Pew Internet study of the same subjects found that social isolation among Americans is actually not as high as previous research suggested it to be.

While it was thought that the number of core discussion networks – the group of people with whom others are able to discuss important topics – declined over the years, the Pew Internet study found that core networks were larger and more diverse for users of the Internet and mobile phones.

It discovered that individuals who frequently use the Internet for blogging or use a cell phone were more likely to work with a local voluntary association, such as a youth group. Also, rather than Internet use preventing people from going to public places, it was found that Internet use was highly associated with such public places as restaurants, parks and cafes, all areas where people are likely to come in contact with a range of people and points of views. Although it was previously thought that the use of the Internet provided for a more long distance network, the Internet is, in fact, used just as much for local communication.

The study concludes that the use of the Internet and mobile phones has a positive relationship to close-knit networks and voluntary groups, as well as associations with public areas. Free, 89 pages. http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2009/18--Social-Isolation-and-New-Technology.aspx.