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  • 1. Isolated? New Technologies, Social Support, Civic Engagement and Democracy.Keith N. HamptonAssociate ProfessorSchool of Communication & InformationRutgers UniversityEmail: keith.hampton@rutgers.eduWeb: www.mysocialnetwork.netTwitter: @mysocnet
  • 2. Fundamental Question Is the use of new information and communication technologies (ICTs) associated with social isolation? Keith N. Hampton 2
  • 3. A recent sample from the mass media… “Facebook to Twitter—have made us more densely networked than ever. Yet, we have never been lonelier and that this loneliness is making us mentally and physically ill.” May 2012. The Atlantic. Keith N. Hampton
  • 4. A recent sample from the mass media… “We expect more from technology and less from one another and seem increasingly drawn to technologies that provide the illusion of companionship without the demands of relationship.” April 21, 2012. The New York Times. Keith N. Hampton
  • 5. What is Social Isolation? The absence of core ties (discussion confidants).  Speaks to the availability of social support and potential for deliberative democracy.  About strong ties.  Marsden (1987); McPherson, Smith-Lovin, & Brashears (2006) Low civic/civil engagement (participatory democracy).  Civic behaviors: involvement in formal charitable and community groups or institutions that address public issues or concerns.  Civil behaviors: support mechanisms and commitment to provide informal services that are independent of government and formal institutions.  About weak ties.  Putnam (2000). Keith N. Hampton 5
  • 6. Pew Research Center Projects Pew Internet & American Life Project. 2008 Pew Research: Random digit dial national survey of 2,512 adults.  Includes non-users and users of various ICTs.  2009 Pew Report on “Social Isolation & New Technology.” 2010 Pew Research: Random digit dial national survey of 2,255 adults.  Included a 24% sub-sample of 2008 participants.  2011 Pew Report on “Social Networking Sites and Our Lives.” Technology use measured as frequency of use at home/work and type of use (e.g., mobile phone, blogs, IM, share digital photos online, Facebook, MySpace, etc.). Keith N. Hampton 6
  • 7. Core Relationships Administered the “important matters” name generator from the 1985 and 2004 U.S. GSS. “From time to time, most people discuss important matters with other people. Looking back over the last six months – who are the people with whom you discuss important matters?” Recorded up to 5 unique names for each question. Asked a series of follow-up questions about each name (e.g., to measure diversity kin/non-kin). Keith N. Hampton 7
  • 8. Core Discussion Networks: Size 40% 35% 30%% population 25% 25.40% 22.50% 1985 20% 21.60% 19.60% 19.70% 2004 15% 17.40% 15.40% 2008 14.80% 14.70% 10% 11.70% 2010 9.10% 8.10% 5% 8.90% 29.70% 26.50% 16.60% 8.50% 9.80% 12.00% 34.90% 23.10% 15.40% 7.80% 6.80% 0% 0 1 2 3 4 5 Network Size Keith N. Hampton 8
  • 9. Core Discussion Networks Social Isolation No spike in social isolation since 1985. Predicting social isolation using logistic regression.  Demographic controls: sex, age, education, marital status, children, race, ethnicity.  IM users = 49% less likely to be socially isolated.  Heavy twitter users (daily use) = 51% more likely to be socially isolated.  However, there are few zeros (social isolation is rare)! IM and Twitter use, also relatively rare. Few are IM users (N=33/2250) or Twitter users (N=9/2250).  This model is not valid or reliable! Keith N. Hampton 9
  • 10. Core Discussion Networks Size Mean size of about 2 core ties (similar to the 2004 GSS). Predicting core network size using Poisson regression:  No negative relationship between any type of Internet / mobile phone use and size of core discussion networks.  Internet user = 14% more close relationships than non-users.  IM user = 12% more confidants than other Internet users.  Facebook user (multiple times/day) = 9% more core ties than other Internet users. The magnitude of the relationship between Internet use and the size of core discussion networks is very high compared to known network “boosters”:  University degree (4 years edu) = 12% more close relationships.  Female = 15% more close relationships. Keith N. Hampton 10
  • 11. It looks good, but… Core network size is not the same as social isolation.  At the societal level, core network size may not be a consistent measure of well-being. Individual prosperity consistently predicts larger core networks: i.e. education (and maybe ICT use). However, at the societal level, a small core network may not indicate lower well-being at all.  Where formal support is high (economy + State + civic society), a small number of core ties may provide all the necessary informal support. A small core may not indicate any deficit in access to support (or democratic engagement).  Contrast this with a society where formal resources are scarce, the informal support available from a large core network may be necessary for survival! – a network paradox. Keith N. Hampton 11
  • 12. A Network Paradox 2008 survey of core discussion networks in Norway and Ukraine conducted at the same time as the Pew Personal Networks & Community Survey (Telenor Group). USA NOR UKR Mean discussion network 1.93 2.58 3.78 Isolated (%) 12.0 15.4 1.1 Have nonkin core tie (%) 50.7 48.4 75.9 At the societal level, large core networks are not a sign of prosperity, they are a sign of uncertainty and scarcity. Smaller core networks in America may be part of a longer historical trend related to the relative availability of formal resources. ICTs may advance this trend further by increasing access to informal social support (making access to informal support more efficient). Keith N. Hampton 12
  • 13. Do ICT users get more support? MOS Social Support Scale Total Support (0-100):  Female = +2.4  Married = +10.6 Substantively higher support in comparison to known contributors.  Internet user compared to non-user = +3.4  Blogger compared to other Internet users = +2.8  Facebook (multiple times/day) compared to other Internet users = +4.6 Facebook use is equivalent to half a marriage! Keith N. Hampton 13
  • 14. Are ICTs users less democratically engaged? Social isolation = low levels of civic/civil engagement. Should we expect a direct relationship? Is use of a technology directly relate to engagement? Or is it mediated by another predictor of engagement? Network diversity is one of the strongest predictor of civic behaviors. The more diverse social milieus people participate in (groups and places), the more diverse their networks tend to be. Social milieus vary in the diversity they provide: public spaces, semi-public spaces (e.g., cafes), schools, voluntary groups, religious institutions, neighborhoods, etc. The question may not be, does ICT affect civic engagement, but does ICT use affect network diversity. Keith N. Hampton 14
  • 15. Path model of the relationship between ICT use, social settings & network diversity. Internet use Semipublic Frequent Internet use at spaces home R2=.159 Frequent Internet use at work .124* .201*** Religious institutions R2=.087 Use only landline phone Use only cell phone Voluntary groups Network diversity R2=.138 R2=.380 Blogging Public spaces Share digital photos online R2=.125 .116* Social networking services Neighborhood ties Instant messaging R2=.197 Notes: Predicting difference from population mean network diversity. All coefficients on the arrows are unstandardized OLS regression coefficients. The coefficients of control variables are not shown. * p < .05; ** p < .01; *** p <.001 15
  • 16. New Tech, Same Settings About half of the benefit, in terms of network diversity, of using ICTs comes from the positive relationship between ICT use and use of traditional social settings.  Internet users visit semipublic spaces more frequently.  Heavy Internet users visit semipublic spaces even more frequently.  Bloggers go to church more, volunteer more, and are more frequent visitors of public spaces.  People who share digital photos online, volunteer more, and visit public spaces more often.  Those who have both a cell phone and a landline phone visit semipublic spaces more, attend church more frequently, and volunteer with more groups. Keith N. Hampton 16
  • 17. Bonding, Bridging or ICTs for Civic/Civil Engagement? If we accept that ICT use is associated with larger core networks (strong ties) and more diverse networks overall (weak ties), How much do ICTs matter for civil/civic behaviors when we control for core networks and network diversity? Logistic regression controlling for age, sex, education, race, ethnicity, employment status, marriage, children, and mobility. Predicting civic behaviors:  Participation in community groups, charitable organizations, sports groups, youth groups, religious institutions, and other voluntary organizations. Predicting civil behaviors:  Listened to a neighbor’s problems, helping a neighbor with household chores, lending a neighbor tools or supplies, caring a neighbor’s family member, loaning a neighbor money. Keith N. Hampton 17
  • 18. Determinism or network affordance? Network diversity is a consistent, strong predictor of all civic and civil behaviors.  Civic behaviors: 80-110% more likely to engage when 1 SD above the mean.  Civil behaviors: 50-80% more likely to engage when 1 SD above the mean. Core network size and/or diversity (kin/non-kin and political diversity) rarely a predictor of any civic and civil behaviors. ICT use (IM, mobile phone, email, SMS, SNS) has no negative relationships to civil or civic behaviors.  Civic behaviors: ICTs are rarely a direct predictor.  Civil behaviors: ICTs more consistent, but are still a relatively rare predictor. It’s about affordances for networks, not determinism. Keith N. Hampton 18
  • 19. Conclusion ICT use does not have a negative relationship to social isolation. Core ties: little evidence of a recent change in social isolation (the same change that has been happening for generations).  ICT use may be part of a societal trend where prosperity predicts smaller core networks (the opposite of individual trends).  ICT use affords access to core ties, thus ICT users have better access to informal social support. Civic/civil engagement: no evidence that ICT use is associated with lower engagement.  The direct relationship between ICT use and civic/civil engagement, while not absent, is inconsistent and relatively modest.  ICT use is related to engagement in diverse social milieus (some of which exist online), which affords network diversity.  Even if core networks are smaller, network diversity (weak ties) is a stronger and more consistent predictor of engagement. Keith N. Hampton 19
  • 20. References Comparing Bonding and Bridging Ties for Democratic Engagement: Everyday Use of Communication Technologies within Social Networks for Civic and Civil Behaviors. Information, Communication & Society 14(4), 510-528. 2011. How New Media Affords Network Diversity: Direct and Mediated Access to Social Capital through Participation in Local Social Settings. New Media & Society 13(7). 1031-1049. 2011. Core Networks, Social Isolation, and New Media: Internet and Mobile Phone Use, Network Size, and Diversity. Information, Communication & Society 14(1), 130-155. 2011. Social Networking Sites and Our Lives: How People’s Trust, Personal Relationships, and Civic and Political Involvement are Connected to Their Use of Social Networking Sites and Other Technologies. Pew Research Center. Washington, DC. 2011. Social Isolation and New Technology: How the Internet and Mobile Phones Impact Americans’ Social Networks. Pew Research Center. Washington, DC. 2009. Keith N. Hampton 20