Some critics suspect that new technologies and social media are eroding social networks and social capital. Yet, a research report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project suggests just the opposite.
The internet helps maintain people's social networks, and connects them to members of their social network when they need help. 60 million Americans have turned to the internet for help with major life decisions...
Our work shows that internet use provides online Americans a path to resources, such as access to people who may have the right information to help deal with a health or medical issue or to confront a financial issue. Sometimes this assistance comes from a close friend or family member. Sometimes this assistance comes from a person more socially distant, but made close by email in a time of need. The result is that people not only socialize online, but they also incorporate the internet into seeking information, exchanging advice, and making decisions. Contrary to fears that email would reduce other forms of contact, there is “media multiplexity”: The more contact by email, the more in-person and phone contact.
People are rapidly learning how to incorporate new media and social networking into their daily lives. As they become more comfortable, and in control, of these experiences, it will be the change agents and organizations who learn how to work with the 'social' context of these media that will be most successful. Putting these technologies to use to foster collaboration and build relationships among like-minded organizations is another place to look for inspiration. Also, be sure to check out the Special Report on new media in the latest issue of The Economist (limited access to articles here: via Church of the Customer).