Online and Isolated?

Friday, November 20, 2009


Social scientists have long suspected that the internet contributes to our growing isolation. But Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet and American Life Project, set out to test that assumption. He says they found that Americans aren't as isolated as we thought and that being active on the internet might actually help prevent social isolation.

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Comments [3]

Francisco from Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

As someone who spends a fair proportion of their life on-line, I can verify that, at least in my case, I feel I know people the other side of the world more than I know my own neighbours. I'm not saying that that's good or bad, just a change from the classical notion of community.

Nov. 26 2009 03:31 AM
Francisco from Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

I think the assessments of your guest were incomplete. He seemed to miss the biggest questions straight away:

The first question that arises is did the study look at the difference between Internet users and non-Internet users as mobile phones are different to the Internet.

However, he didn't state whether Internet and mobile phone users spend as much time *socialising* with their neighbours as people in previous generations did. Again is there a difference between Internet and non-Internet users.

Another thing that may explain the explain the figures (that social isolation, on average, has increased) is the fact that we are more risk adverse. From what I've been able to work out the figures, in the UK at least, show that the fear of crime has increased but the crime rate has not. This leads to activity to isolate people from others such as driving when not justified by distances involved, not letting children play out or go unaccompanied anywhere, etc. What impact does that have on people's psychology?

It could be that there is an increase in the trend for children to move away from their parents when they grow up. Anecdotally, that seems to be the case but it'd be good to have some figures on that.

One of the other things that might isolate people is the trend to multichannel TV and multiscreen cinemas. That may sound like a small thing on the surface but please bear with me: Once upon a time the same film showed in all cinemas so it was a shared experience. However, if I watch CSI and you watch Wycliffe[1] then we *may* not feel that we have that much common.

I'm not sure if it was here, or through another of my podcasts, but I remember hearing about research that said that, these days, people's social networks tended to be based around their work place or college as compared to the old fashioned notion that it was based around the area they lived in.

[1] A British detective series.

Nov. 25 2009 11:30 PM
Ana from New York, NY

Lee Rainie arrogantly (and falsely) promoted superiority of internet users over those who actually want to reach out and have social contact. It is common sense that technology has isolated people, but not in the ways quantified by Rainie's so-called data. Isolation from the internet comes not in the form of not seeing or talking to people, but via the ideas formed by the sense of fantasy and "I want it now" attitude brought forth by the internet's false sense of what is available to people and when. In other words, the culture of addiction (furthered by the internet) makes some turn to the internet or technology rather than reach out to those physically available.

Nov. 22 2009 01:00 PM

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