The Pew Internet & American Life Project today released a report describing how the internet improves Americans' capacity to maintain their social networks and how they gain a big payoff when they use the internet to activate those networks to solicit help.
The report is based on two surveys and finds that the internet and email expand and strengthen the social ties that people maintain in the offline world. The surveys show that people not only socialize online, but they also incorporate the internet into their quest for information and advice as they seek help and make decisions.
Disputing concerns that heavy use of the internet might diminish people's social relations, the report finds that the internet fits seamlessly with Americans' in-person and phone encounters. With the help of the internet, people are able to maintain active contact with sizable social networks, even though many of the people in those networks do not live close to them.
The report, "The Strength of Internet Ties," highlights how email supplements, rather than replaces, the communication people have with others in their network.