Past research has hinted that technology might be the cause of social isolation; however, a new report by the Pew Internet and American Life Project indicates that the use of technology actually leads to increased and more diverse social networks.
Keith Hampton, lead author of the report and professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication, explains:
“It turns out that those who use the Internet and mobile phones have notable social advantages…People use the technology to stay in touch and share information in ways that keep them socially active and connected to their communities.”
Data about discussion networks was collected using a 2008 telephone survey of 2,512 adults. The study controlled for a variety of factors such as sex, age and education. According to Reuters, here are some of the report’s key findings:
- Social isolation has barely changed since 1985; only six percent of adults have reported no one significant in their life.
- A discussion network is 12 percent larger among cell phone users and nine percent larger for those who use instant messaging and share photos.
- The diversity of social networks was the largest for those who use the internet frequently, 25 percent larger for cell phone users and 15 percent larger for basic internet users.
- The internet has not discouraged people from visiting public places (parks, cafes, etc).
- The average amount of friends and family a person typically confides in has decreased; however, this was not associated with the use of technology.
- People now use cell phones more than landlines to stay in touch.
- Face-to-face contact is still the primary method people use to keep in touch. On average, a person sees their close group of friends 210 days out of the year.
Click here to read the full report.