[Air-l] overstated media inference from fine study

Greg Elmer gelmer at ryerson.ca
Tue Jun 27 13:43:39 PDT 2006


>From what I can tell, the study discussed in the Post does not directly
discuss the Internet. Perhaps people that you've studied (The Strength
of Internet Ties) have more social ties because they use the net more?
Or at least this is how the Post article, posits your critique of the
Lynn Smith-Lovin study...


----- Original Message -----
From: Barry Wellman <wellman at chass.utoronto.ca>
Date: Saturday, June 24, 2006 10:02 am
Subject: [Air-l] overstated media inference from fine study

> Re the Washington Post story below (and a similar USA Today story):
> To my mind, it's an interesting case of media distortion.
> The good news: the accounts are based on a high-quality survey (US 
> GeneralSocial Survey)  by first-class reseachers (Lynn Smith-Lovin 
> & Miller
> McPherson) + Matthew Brashaers whom I don't know, in sociology's 
> leadingjournal, American Sociological Review. I was a referee on 
> this paper, btw,
> and revealed myself at appropriate time to the authors.
> The study replicates one stimulus Q from the General Social Survey 20
> years ago about who do you have to discuss important matters with. It
> finds a mean of about 2 in 2004, down from 3 in 1984 (or was it 1985)?
> Here's the problem:
> Based on this, the 2 newspapers have created a huge social 
> isolation spin
> on this, when it's well known that people have lotsa ties, not just 
> 2 or
> 3. See our data from Pew Internet, Connected Lives study) + lotsa 
> others.Indeed, altho we are not as parallel as the US GSS, 
> comparing Connected
> Lives (3rd East York study, 2004) with the second East York study 
> (1979data) shows more active ties now, both intimate and 
> significant ties.
> Thus the media spin is a huge inferential leap from a decline in the
> super-core ties to saying Americans are socially isolated.
> If you read further in the Washington Post and USA Today articles, 
> you'llsee me quoted as suggesting that we now have more ties -- and 
> more contact
> with ties -- but that relationships are differentiated. In other 
> words,the relative decline in discussion partners shouldn't be 
> generalized to
> either absolute isolation or even growing isolation.
> Of course, YMMV.
> _____________________________________________________________________
>  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
> Date: Fri, 23 Jun 2006 13:56:00 -0400
> From: Richard Forno <rforno at infowarrior.org>
> Subject: [Air-l] Americans and social isolation
> It would be interesting to see how this fits into the whole "being 
> alonetogether" argument within a technology context....for example, 
> someone who
> doesn't want to be around people but who socializes happily in a 
> MMORPGenvironment or spends hours upon hours on AIM or IRC.
> Social Isolation Growing in U.S., Study Says
> The Number of People Who Say They Have No One to Confide In Has Risen
> By Shankar Vedantam
> Washington Post Staff Writer
> Friday, June 23, 2006; A03
> Americans are far more socially isolated today than they were two 
> decadesago, and a sharply growing number of people say they have no 
> one in whom
> they can confide, according to a comprehensive new evaluation of 
> the decline
> of social ties in the United States.
> A quarter of Americans say they have no one with whom they can discuss
> personal troubles, more than double the number who were similarly 
> isolatedin 1985. Overall, the number of people Americans have in 
> their closest
> circle of confidants has dropped from around three to about two.
> The comprehensive new study paints a sobering picture of an 
> increasinglyfragmented America, where intimate social ties -- once 
> seen as an integral
> part of daily life and associated with a host of psychological and 
> civicbenefits -- are shrinking or nonexistent. In bad times, far 
> more people
> appear to suffer alone.
> ---
> http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-
> dyn/content/article/2006/06/22/AR2006062201763_pf.html
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