[Air-l] The Strength of Internet Ties

Barry Wellman wellman at chass.utoronto.ca
Thu Jan 26 06:00:17 PST 2006


Folks,

Here is the press release for our new Pew Report on the intersection of
social, communication and computer networks.

Jeff Boase and I deeply thank John Horrigan and Lee Rainie of the Pew
Internet and American Life project for being such wonderful collaborators.

 Barry

PS: When next we meet at conference, buy me a latte and we'll talk about
the interesting life of being in the media spotlight for the short term.

 _____________________________________________________________________

  Barry Wellman         Professor of Sociology        NetLab Director
  wellman at chass.utoronto.ca  http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~wellman

  Centre for Urban & Community Studies          University of Toronto
  455 Spadina Avenue    Toronto Canada M5S 2G8    fax:+1-416-978-7162
	     To network is to live; to live is to network
 _____________________________________________________________________

		"The Strength of Internet Ties"
	Jeffrey Boase, John Horrigan, Barry Wellman and Lee Rainie
  Full report at http://www.pewinternet.org/PPF/r/172/report_display.asp

	The internet improves Americans' capacity to maintain their social
networks and they gain a big payoff when they use the internet to activate
those networks to solicit help

	Washington (January 25, 2005) - The internet and email expand and
strengthen the social ties that people maintain in the offline world,
according to a new report released today by the Pew Internet & American
Life Project.

	One major payoff comes when people use the internet to press their social
networks into action as they face major challenges. People not only
socialize online, but they also incorporate the internet into their quest
for information and advice as they seek help and make decisions.

	Disputing concerns that heavy use of the internet might diminish people's
social relations, the report finds that the internet fits seamlessly with
Americans' in-person and phone encounters. With the help of the internet,
people are able to maintain active contact with sizable social networks,
even though many of the people in those networks do not live close to
them.

	The report, "The Strength of Internet Ties," highlights how email
supplements, rather than replaces, the communication people have with
others in their network.

"The larger, the more far-flung, and the more diverse a person's network,
the more important email is," argues Jeffrey Boase, a University of
Toronto sociologist who co-authored the Pew Internet Project report. "You
can't make phone calls or personal visits to all your friends very often,
but you can 'cc' them regularly with a couple of keystrokes. That turns
out to be very important."

	One major benefit comes when people want to mobilize their networks as
they face problems or significant decisions. The Pew Internet Project
survey finds that internet users are more likely than non-users to have
been helped by those in their networks as they faced important events in
their life.

	"Internet use provides online Americans a path to resources, such as
access to people who may have the right information to help deal with
family health crises or find a new job," says John Horrigan, Associate
Director for Research at the Pew Internet Project and another author of
the report. "When you need help these days, you don't need a bugle to call
the cavalry, you need a big buddy list."

	These survey findings fit into a larger transformation in social relations
that sociologist Barry Wellman of the University of Toronto has called the
rise of "networked individualism." He says that users of modern technology
are less tied to local groups and increasingly tied to looser and more
geographically scattered networks.

	"The internet and the cell phone have transformed communication: Instead
of being based on house-to-house interactions, they are built on
person-to-person exchanges," maintains Wellman, also a co-author of the
report. "This creates a new basis for community. Rather than relying on a
single community for social support, individuals often must actively seek
out a variety of appropriate people and resources for different
situations."

	In addition to using the internet to get help from their networks, some
use the internet to get information and compare options as they face
decisions and milestones in their lives. One of the Pew Internet Project
surveys covered in this report shows that 45% of internet users - about 60
million Americans - say the internet has played an important or crucial
role in helping them deal with at least one major life decision in the
previous two years. That is a 33% increase from a similar survey in early
2002.

The eight major decisions queried in a March 2005 survey were:

 	Getting additional training for your career: About 21 million said
the internet had played a crucial or important role in this.
 	Helping another person with a major illness or medical condition:
About 17 million said the internet had played a crucial or important role
in this.
 	Choosing a school for yourself or a child: About 17 million said
the internet had played a crucial or important role in this.
 	Buying a car: About 16 million said the internet had played a
crucial or important role in this.
 	Making a major investment or financial decision: About 16 million
said the internet had played a crucial or important role in this.
 	Finding a new place to live: About 10 million said the internet
had played a crucial or important role in this.
 	Changing jobs: About 8 million said the internet had played a
crucial or important role in this.
 	Dealing oneself with a major illness or health condition: About 7
million said the internet had played a crucial or important role in this.

	This report is based on the findings of two daily tracking surveys on
Americans' use of the Internet. The Project's Social Ties survey was
fielded from February 17, 2004, through March 17, 2004, and it involved
interviews with 2,200 adults age 18 and older. The Project's Major Moments
survey was fielded from February 21, 2004, through March 21, 2004, and it
involved interviews with 2,201 adults. Both surveys have a margin of error
of plus or minus two percentage points.

-30-




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