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It seems that technology is not, after all, turning us into a race of socially inadequate hermits.
In fact, according to research by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, people who use the internet and mobile phones have larger and more diverse social networks.
The study found that six percent of Americans feel they have no one with whom they can discuss important matters – about the same proportion as in 1985.
But the researchers found that ownership of a mobile phone and participation in a variety of internet activities were associated with larger and more diverse core discussion networks – groups of friends, to you and me.
The size of core discussion networks is 12 percent larger than average amongst cell phone users, nine percent larger for those who share photos online and nine percent bigger for those who use instant messaging.
Internet users are apparently 38 percent less likely to rely exclusively on their spouses or partners as discussion confidants. Those who use instant messaging are even less likely to do so.
“Contrary to the argument that internet use limits people’s participation in the local community, local institutions and local spaces, our findings show that most internet activities are associated with higher levels of local activity,” say the researchers. “However, we find some evidence that use of social networking services – for example, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn – substitutes for some level of neighborhood involvement.”
Read the full report here.