Does the Internet weaken our social ties? Not according to research conducted by Pew in 2004. Based on the work of Barry Wellman this study shows that those who are active in a face-to-face setting are more likely to actively use the Internet to maintain their relationships.
Wellman argues that the Internet promotes “networked individualism” which allows individuals to move beyond a small core of trusted friends and access more diverse advice from a network of contacts. While the ties between these individuals may not be strong ties, they nonetheless provide the support demanded by circumstances at the time of the contact.
But the report was conducted in 2004, before the success of Facebook and certainly before the launch of Twitter. Wellman’s study focussed on the use of emails in the maintenance of social networks. Since 2004 much has happened to reshape the way individuals participate on the Internet particularly as a result of the emergence of online social networking and bookmarking sites.
Too, the research was conducted in the US and takes no account of the way the Internet shapes social interactions in communities where net access is limited.