The Strength of Internet Ties (25 Jan 2006)
The internet - and the cell phone - have also transformed communication from house to house to person-to-person. In the past, people went visiting on Sundays or called on each other at home in the evening. Now, they contact each other person-to-person. As Robert Putnam (2000) has shown, households are much less likely than a generation ago to have family dinners or picnics. But this does not mean they are disconnected. Rather, they are connected - as individuals - to friends and relatives and even to other household members (Kennedy and Wellman, 2006). The internet now helps people in maintaining ties with large and diversified networks.
The result is that people not only socialize online, but they incorporate the internet into seeking information, exchanging advice, and making decisions. While not everyone does this, the trend is clear, and our findings show what a great boost the internet is providing to social capital - obtaining resources both from other people and from more institutional web resources. To get such capital, people must act as individual internet entrepreneurs. Americans are in an era where they may have only one or two extremely close relationships, but dozens of core and significant ties. This means rather than relying on a single “community” for information, advice, and resources, people do better when they actively seek out a variety of appropriate people and web resources for different situations. The evidence from the two surveys shows that they are doing this, and that many are using the internet actively for help with crucial and important issues.Add this article to Del.icio.us