Well, surprise, surprise. It seems the more you enjoy using communication tools, the more likely you are to have wider social networks, as a recent US study has shown:
… the study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, titled Social Isolation and New Technology, found …
On average, the size of people’s discussion networks is 12 percent larger among mobile phone users, nine percent larger for those who share photos online, and nine percent bigger for those who use instant messaging. The diversity of people’s core networks tends to be 25 percent larger for mobile phone users, 15 percent larger for basic Internet users, and even larger for frequent Internet users, instant messagers, and those sharing photos online.
Internet users were as likely as anyone else to visit their neighbours and take part in local community activities. …
“Our survey results suggest that people’s lives are likely to be enhanced by participation with new communication technologies” …
When I was providing training about the Internet back in the 1990s and early 2000s I often heard the objection that going on the Internet would lead to isolation.
Often these fears were voiced by people who thrive on frequent and active personal interaction with others. These were the people who would insist on face-to-face meetings.
I realise now that personal styles, or personality ‘types’, probably have a lot to do with this.
Energised by ‘face time’
I know people who just love interacting with others. They love nothing better than getting together ‘for a coffee’, ‘a meetup’ or ‘a catch-up’. They leave feeling energised, already arranging the next get-together.
I can see that these people may not understand what you could possibly get out of going online. Online would be a place for factual, no nonsense research.
Energised by selective community
I’m a more solitary person. I prefer to ration my meetings with others and spend a lot of time on my own. In general ‘meetings’ leave me feeling exhausted, unless it’s time spent with my very few closest friends.
I want face to face meetings to be about business. I want them to be efficient and task-oriented. I’m meeting this person or these people to achieve a goal, have an outcome. Unless it’s my dearest friends, there needs to be a purpose for meeting.
Where I hang out, where I spend time, is online.
Online there are people from all over the world who share my interests or concerns, and I can control when and how I interact with them. I can drop in on Twitter or my favourite mailing list when I feel like it. I can voice comments or stay quiet as it pleases me.
If I have nothing to say then I say nothing. If I can contribute to the conversation then I jump in.
My community is around me 24 hours a day, always available, yet always at a small remove.
I feel close to and concerned about people I have never met. I rejoice with them for their successes and await news from their difficulties.
I find myself often mentioning them to my partner: “My Internet buddy [name] in Canada was talking about …”. I have ‘Internet pals’ in New Zealand and Australia, the USA and Canada, Scotland and England, and in other places too.
I don’t find it at all surprising that communication technology, in particular the Internet, has helped me grow my community.
Late update: farmers want in
Oh, and as soon as I’d published this Post I spotted this. It seemed apt:
Farmers don’t want access to broadband only for those worthy but dull things that can boost their on-farm productivity — they want Facebook.
“We want to be socially connected through networking sites like Twitter, You Tube, Facebook and other emerging technologies that connect people together, globally,” says lobbyist Donald Aubrey, of Ben McLeod Station in the South Island’s high country.
Image credit — NASA: Night Lights Poster.