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Being On-line Connects Us Off-line

Pew Internet & American Life Project ( has studied the ‘dreadful’ way the Internet isolates people from their friends and family. They’ve found not only does...

Pew Internet & American Life Project ( has studied the ‘dreadful’ way the Internet isolates people from their friends and family. They’ve found not only does it not cut us off from our friends, it actually increases connectedness. ‘Rather than conflicting with people’s community ties, we find that the Internet fits seamlessly with in-person and phone encounters.’ They also report of ‘media multiplexity’, where people who connect on the Internet are more likely to see each other in person and talk on the phone.
They also report a few things I’ve noticed but without thinking about too much. The Internet and cellular phones link individuals more than buildings. If I visit someone at home or talk to them using a phone landline, I reach a house. If I email or call a cellular phone, I am contacting an individual wherever they are.

Another result of Internet connectedness are the positive effects of the wider social network cultivated by this new medium. This wider network gives people access to a greater range of people when dealing with serious life events. A few times I’ve seen someone in an on-line group announce that they have a life-threatening illness. Many people offer support and comfort, and often one or more of the ‘comforters’ have survived the same illness, offering hope and good News as well as practical help and advice.

The Pew Internet research shows that email is good for connecting with people regardless of geographical distance. We all know it is great for connecting with friends in other countries, but this research shows it is just as good with the people we see in-person every week. Email helps people connect with each other’s lives, which directly promotes more frequent in-person meetings.

With telephones, the larger your social network, the more time it takes to contact a significant fraction. Subsequently, you contact a smaller percentage every week. With email this is not the case. As your network grows in size, the percentage you contact by email every week seems to stay stable at about 20%. Part of the magic is that you can email a number of people at once, such as all of your friends who like baseball, or dislike Jessica Simpson. So, when you get baseball News, you pass it on to a bunch of friends. The larger your network the more people you send the baseball News to, or hear baseball News from.

It’s nice to have a scientific report support what we all knew about the Internet already. It doesn’t isolate people. It brings us together in new ways with anyone, anywhere, anytime. Not only friends in other countriesComputer Technology Articles, but family across town.

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By Allan T. Price
Allan T. Price is a creative writer working at M6.Net: ‘The web-hosting company for humans.’ M6.Net is working hard to help humanity experience the power and freedom to develop their own part of the Internet, to share their information and connect with anyone, anywhere, anytime.

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