***** To join INSNA, visit http://www.insna.org ***** Folks, This discussion originated on the Association of Internet Researchers list. But as it is germane to social network analysts, comm-tech sociologists, and community sociologists -- I am reposting it here. Absolutely no apologies for crossposting. Barry _____________________________________________________________________ Barry Wellman Professor of Sociology NetLab Director wellman at chass.utoronto.ca http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~wellman Centre for Urban & Community Studies University of Toronto 455 Spadina Avenue Toronto Canada M5S 2G8 fax:+1-416-978-7162 You're invited to visit -- and contribute to -- my new fun website "Updating Cybertimes: It's Time to Bring Our Culture into Cyberspace" http://chass.utoronto.ca/oldnew/cybertimes.php _____________________________________________________________________ ---------- Forwarded message ---------- Date: Sat, 24 Jun 2006 10:02:59 -0400 From: Barry Wellman <[log in to unmask]> To: aoir list <[log in to unmask]> Subject: overstated media inference from fine study Re the Washington Post story below (and a similar USA Today story): To my mind, it's an interesting case of media distortion. The good news: the accounts are based on a high-quality survey (US General Social Survey) by first-class reseachers (Lynn Smith-Lovin & Miller McPherson) + Matthew Brashaers whom I don't know, in sociology's leading journal, American Sociological Review. I was a referee on this paper, btw, and revealed myself at appropriate time to the authors. The study replicates one stimulus Q from the General Social Survey 20 years ago about who do you have to discuss important matters with. It finds a mean of about 2 in 2004, down from 3 in 1984 (or was it 1985)? Here's the problem: Based on this, the 2 newspapers have created a huge social isolation spin on this, when it's well known that people have lotsa ties, not just 2 or 3. See our data from Pew Internet, Connected Lives study) + lotsa others. Indeed, altho we are not as parallel as the US GSS, comparing Connected Lives (3rd East York study, 2004) with the second East York study (1979 data) shows more active ties now, both intimate and significant ties. Thus the media spin is a huge inferential leap from a decline in the super-core ties to saying Americans are socially isolated. If you read further in the Washington Post and USA Today articles, you'll see me quoted as suggesting that we now have more ties -- and more contact with ties -- but that relationships are differentiated. In other words, the relative decline in discussion partners shouldn't be generalized to either absolute isolation or even growing isolation. Of course, YMMV. _____________________________________________________________________ Barry Wellman Professor of Sociology NetLab Director Date: Fri, 23 Jun 2006 13:56:00 -0400 From: Richard Forno Subject: [Air-l] Americans and social isolation It would be interesting to see how this fits into the whole "being alone together" argument within a technology context....for example, someone who doesn't want to be around people but who socializes happily in a MMORPG environment or spends hours upon hours on AIM or IRC. Washington Post story: Social Isolation Growing in U.S., Study Says The Number of People Who Say They Have No One to Confide In Has Risen By Shankar Vedantam Friday, June 23, 2006; A03 Americans are far more socially isolated today than they were two decades ago, and a sharply growing number of people say they have no one in whom they can confide, according to a comprehensive new evaluation of the decline of social ties in the United States. A quarter of Americans say they have no one with whom they can discuss personal troubles, more than double the number who were similarly isolated in 1985. Overall, the number of people Americans have in their closest circle of confidants has dropped from around three to about two. The comprehensive new study paints a sobering picture of an increasingly fragmented America, where intimate social ties -- once seen as an integral part of daily life and associated with a host of psychological and civic benefits -- are shrinking or nonexistent. In bad times, far more people appear to suffer alone. --- http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/06/22/AR2006062201 763_pf.html _____________________________________________________________________ SOCNET is a service of INSNA, the professional association for social network researchers (http://www.insna.org). To unsubscribe, send an email message to [log in to unmask] containing the line UNSUBSCRIBE SOCNET in the body of the message.