Fuel for debate at the State of the Net: The Social Side of the Internet

Social Network by Luc Legay

My Social Network by Luc Legay

A new survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet and Life Project sheds new light on the social side of the Internet.The results offer new insight into the differences between the connected and the disconnected.

The survey found that:

  • 75% of all American adults are active in some kind of voluntary group or organization and internet users are more likely than others to be active
  • 80% of internet users participate in groups, compared with 56% of non-internet users. Moreover, social media users are even more likely to be active
  • 82% of social network users and 85% of Twitter users are group participants.

For stats junkies, the full report offers many more numbers on how people organize, find groups and use the Internet to participate. Or not, as the case may be. The disconnected are not, by definition, participants in virtual civic discourse or affinity groups. There are many shades to the digital divide. “It is important to note that 25% of American adults are not active in any of the groups we addressed,” wrote Aaron Smith, senior research specialist at Pew Internet and co-author of the report. “They often report they are time-stressed or have health or other issues that limit their ability to be involved. And about a fifth of them say that lack of access to the internet is a hindrance. Even in its absence, the internet seems to be a factor in the reality of how groups perform in the digital age.”

The results of the survey will provide grist for the mill, so to speak, at a panel discussion at the State of the Net conference tomorrow, where this correspondent will join Jerry Berman, Andrew Keen, Lee Rainie and Clay Shirky to talk about social media and the role of the Internet on civic life. If you have questions or comments, please share them in the comments. (And for those in NYC, keep on eye out for the new Meetup.)

About Alex Howard

Alexander B. Howard is a DC-based a technology writer and editor. Previously, he was the Washington Correspondent at O'Reilly Media, where he covered the voices, technologies and issues that matter in the intersection of government, technology and society. If you're feeling social, you can follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook or circle him on Google Plus In addition to corresponding for the O’Reilly Radar, he has contributed to the Huffington Post, Govfresh, Mashable, ReadWriteWeb, National Journal, The Atlantic, CBS News and Forbes. He graduated from Colby College with a bachelor's degree in biology and sociology. Currently, he is a resident of the District of Columbia, where he lives with his greyhound, wife, power tools, plants and growing collection of cast iron pans, many of which are frequently used to pursue his passion for good cooking.