A recent Pew study looked at the impact of technology on social isolation. Research from a number of recent studies has determined that the average American’s social circle is getting smaller. Twenty years ago most people interviewed could identify three individuals that they felt they could truly confide in – that number has dropped to two. Is technology to blame? A 2007 General Social Survey claimed it was. The study hypothesized that Internet and cell phone use were the cause of increased social isolation. This week’s Pew study contradicted that claim, finding that, while social circles have gotten smaller, technology is not to blame. Cell phone and Internet users generally have larger social circles and closer friends than those that are technologically disconnected. The study found that technology users are more likely to visit parks and cafes and volunteer for local organizations. However, they are less likely to know and interact with their neighbors. Technology users also have more diverse social networks that include friends with a variety of backgrounds. While technology appears to facilitate closer relationships, those that use it still prefer face-to-face communication as the best way to stay in touch with family and friends.
Does Technology Reduce Social Isolation? [NYTimes]