I was recently approached by a journalist who wished to test a theory that kids and teenagers spend time online to build and maintain relationships but adults primarily go online in search of information. My take was that if there ever was a difference, it has disappeared the last few years and adults connect to communities almost to the same extent as young people. The new study “The Strength of Internet Ties” from the Pew Internet and American Life Project seems to suggest I might be on to something.
From the report, about the fears that social relationships are fading away in America:
“Instead of disappearing, people’s communities are transforming: The traditional human orientation to neighborhood- and village-based groups is moving towards communities that are oriented around geographically dispersed social networks. People communicate and maneuver in these networks rather than being bound up in one solidary community. Yet people’s networks continue to have substantial numbers of relatives and neighbors — the traditional bases of community — as well as friends and
“With the help of the internet, people are able to maintain active contact with sizable social networks, even though many of the people in those networks do not live nearby.”
In my survey of blog readers last year, I found that a large portion of Swedish bloggers are anonymous (6 out of 10 women), which could suggest that many people are able to maintain parts of their social network online even without revealing their true identity.