Americans Are Lonelier, but Don't Blame the Internet, Report Says
Americans tend to have fewer close confidants today than they did two decades ago -- but that isn't because they're all huddled over their computers playing World of Warcraft or reading the Volokh Conspiracy.
A report released Wednesday by the Pew Internet & American Life Project suggests that the Internet and other new communication technologies have, if anything, a modestly positive effect on the size and diversity of people's friendship networks.
The study found that using the Internet is associated with having more, not fewer, intimate friends. And Internet users are generally no less likely than nonusers to maintain face-to-face ties with their neighbors. Bloggers, for example, are 72 percent more likely than the general population to belong to a local voluntary organization.
So the common fear that old-fashioned kinds of social capital will evaporate as people spend more time online doesn't seem to be warranted.
But not all the news in the Pew report is sunny. The authors, who include three scholars at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School of Communication, found evidence that Americans' friendship networks have shrunk significantly in the last two decades. The Internet isn't to blame for that trend, the Pew authors say, but the trend seems to be real.