Pew Report: Social Isolation and New Technology

November 6th, 2009 | by dnw |


Interesting things in this report (PDF) about the effects of technology on social isolation. (–Social-Isolation-and-New-Technology.aspx)

A lot of what it says I can attest to in my own experience, especially in relation to technology providing a platform and mechanism for "core discussion networks" to become more diverse. 

This also sets off alarms in my head attesting to the underestimated importance of access to technology and access to social networks for people living with a disability.

It also reinforces how we are being forced to, and in my opinion need to, look differently at entrenched concepts of what constitutes being 'socially isolated'. The highlighting of the importance of core discussion networks acting as social ties I find fascinating as well as true in my experience.

This is another area of culture that is creating upheaval in thinking when we try and rely on an old mode of comparison and an area that the digital age is turning on its head in all manner of inversions.

Some key parts:


Americans are not as isolated as has been previously reported. We find that the extent of social isolation has hardly changed since 1985, contrary to concerns that the prevalence of severe isolation has tripled since then. Only 6% of the adult population has no one with whom they can discuss important matters or who they consider to be “especially significant” in their life.


We confirm that Americans’ discussion networks have shrunk by about a third since 1985 and have become less diverse because they contain fewer non?family members. However, contrary to the considerable concern that people’s use of the internet and cell phones could be tied to the trend towards smaller networks, we find that ownership of a mobile phone and participation in a variety of internet activities are associated with larger and more diverse core discussion networks. (Discussion networks are a key measure of people’s most important social ties.)


Social media activities are associated with several beneficial social activities, including having discussion networks that are more likely to contain people from different backgrounds. For instance, frequent internet users, and those who maintain a blog are much more likely to confide in someone who is of another race. Those who share photos online are more likely to report that they discuss important matters with someone who is a member of another political party.


When we examine people’s full personal network – their strong ties and weak ties – internet use in general and use of social networking services such as Facebook in particular are associated with having a more diverse social network. Again, this flies against the notion that technology pulls people away from social engagement.

– em v p

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  1. One Response to “Pew Report: Social Isolation and New Technology”

  2. By Neal on Dec 11, 2009 | Reply

    free&easy solution to social isolation
    Increase Information Exchange by putting Computers…

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