Social Networking: The Strength of Internet Ties

The internet helps maintain people’s social networks, and connects them to members of their social network when they need help. 60 million Americans have turned to the internet for help with major life decisions. These are the findings of a new report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project.
Summary of findings:
1. The internet helps build social capital.
2. The internet plays socially beneficial roles in a world moving towards “networked individualism.”
3. Email allows people to get help from their social networks and the web lets them gather information and find support and information as they face important decisions.
4. The internet supports social networks.
5. Email is more capable than in-person or phone communication of facilitating regular contact with large networks.
6. Email is a tool of “glocalization.” It connects distant friends and relatives, yet it also connects those who live nearby.
7. Email does not seduce people away from in-person and phone contact.
8. People use the internet to put their social networks into motion when they need help with important issues in their lives.
9. The internet’s role is important in explaining the greater likelihood of online users getting help as compared to non-users.
10. Americans’ use of a range of information technologies smooths their paths to getting help. Those with many significant ties and access to people with a variety of different occupations are more likely to get help from their networks.
11. Internet users have somewhat larger social networks than non-users. The median size of an American’s network of core and significant ties is 35. For internet users, the median network size is 37; for non-users it is 30.
12. 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 past two years.
13. The number of Americans relying on the internet for major life decisions has increased by one-third since 2002.
14. At major moments, some people say the internet helps them connect with other people and experts who help them make choices. Others say that the web helps them get information and compare options as they face decisions.
Source: Jeffrey Boase, John B. Horrigan, Barry Wellman, Barry, and Lee Rainie. The Strength of Internet Ties. Washington, DC: Pew Internet & American Life Project, January 2006.
Wise companies will look at this report carefully, and figure out ways to use this social power of internetworking.

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