Marital Status, Individualism And On Line
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Marital Status, Individualism And On Line

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  • 1. Marital status, individualism and on-line groups. Does the Internet have a “magnifying glass effect”?   Sorin Matei Communication Technology and Community Program Annenberg School for Communication University of Southern California The research presented in this paper uses datasets obtained from Metamorphosis, an Annenberg School for Communication (USC) Communication Technology and Community Program project
  • 2. Theoretical background
    • Off-line social-cultural factors that keep people socially anchored – families, friendship networks or neighborhoods – are essential in shaping on-line social encounters
    • Need to analyze both on-line and off-line personal connections
  • 3. Theoretical background
    • Social shaping of technology
    • Transformations in social-cultural structure are reflected in social choices we make on-line
    • Major change in late 20 th century American society: emergence of radical individualism
    • On-line discourse and to a certain extent social practices reflect this shift
  • 4. Theoretical background
    • Why are on-line discourse and social practices linked to individualism:
      • Old American vision of empowering individuals and extending democracy through technology (Boorstin)
      • Emphasis on “open communication” (Bellah)
      • Community as extension of the self (Jones; Fernback)
      • The “self frontier” (Jones, Riesman)
      • On-line activists explicitly embrace individualism (Shuler, Rheingold)
  • 5. Method
    • Marital status used as proxy for individualism:
    • Single households with no children:
      • 1998: 32%, largest marital status group
      • 1972: 16%, doubled its size
    • Married households with children
      • 1972 = 45%, largest marital status group;
      • 1998 = 25%; second largest.
  • 6.
    • Weakening of economic role of family
    • Individualistic value priorities  divorce:
    • 1980: 80% of Americans declare “parents should be free to live their own lives even if it means spending less time with their children" and that parents have the right to live well now "even if it means leaving less to the children" (Yankelovich, 1981, p. 74).
    • 1985: 82% of Americans agree "parents who don't get along should not stay together because there are children in the family,” compared to the 51% who agreed with this statement in 1951 (Myers, 2000).
    Causes of family decline:
  • 7. Hypotheses
    • H1: Those who are single or divorced are more likely to agree with individualistic beliefs than the rest of the population.
    • H2: Singles are more attracted by the social promises of the Internet than married people.
    • H3: Higher likelihood of making personal connections on-line increases the number of personal friends in real life and is greater for married people.
  • 8. Datasets
    • 1. The 1993 General Social Survey ( N =1606)
    • 2. CBS News “CBS.Marketwatch.com” Internet Poll, January 1999 ( N =1782)
    • 3. The Metamorphosis survey of Los Angeles neighborhoods ( N =1491)
    • 4. A specially collected on-line groups dataset ( N =97)
  • 9. Measures
    • You have to take care of yourself first and then help other people (a/d) - GSS
    • Main goal/best thing about the Internet – making new friends – CBS Poll
    • Number of people known in real community to talk about a personal problem – Metamorphosis & Virtual Community datasets
    • Number of people known on-line to talk about personal problem – VC dataset
    • Have you ever made a personal friend on-line? - Metamorphosis
  • 10. Findings
    • H1: Singles have 80% greater odds of putting the self first
    • H2: Singles are:
    • 40% greater odds to say best thing about Internet is making new friends (CBS)
    • 130% greater odds to say main goal for participating in on-line activities is making new friends (Metamorphosis)
    • Controlling for age and education
  • 11. MAGNIFYING GLASS EFFECT Main effects both for marital status ( F (1, 78)=11.11, p = .01) and for on-line friendship ( F (1, 78)=6.0, p <.05).
  • 12. Interaction effect between marital status and personal ties on-line, F(1, 263)=5.34, p<.05
  • 13. Conclusions
    • a. Marital status seems to be associated with a general individualistic attitude.
    • b. Singles are more likely to believe in the social potential of the Internet.
    • c. Having personal connections on-line seems to be associated with having personal connections in one’s physical community and married people seem to have more connections both in reality and in cyberspace.