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Net hasn't isolated Yanks - they've just misplaced their friends

Net chums replace some neighbours

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Americans have not become more isolated thanks to the advent of mobile phones and the internet - it's just that they've mislaid a third of their closest friends in the last few years.

A study by the Pew Internet and American Life project countered findings earlier this decade, which declared that Americans were becoming more socially isolated, with the size of their "social discussion networks" declining and the "diversity of those people with whom they discuss important matters" decreasing.

But the people from the Pew found that Americans were not as isolated as thought, with use of the mobile phone and the internet "associated with larger and more diverse discussion networks."

"When we examine people’s full personal network – their strong and weak ties – internet use in general and use of social networking services such as Facebook in particular are associated with more diverse social networks," the centre declared.

Of course, it all depends whether you really count people you know via social networking sites and the like as friends.

The survey found that since 1985, there has been a "small-to-modest change, rather than a large drop in the number of people who report that they have no one with whom they can discuss important matters... Only 6 per cent of the adult population has no-one with whom they can discuss important matters or who they consider to be “especially significant” in their life."

Over that time, "the mean network size has dropped by about one-third or a loss of approximately one confidant."

The diversity of "core discussion networks" has markedly declined, and are less likely to contain "non-kin", though.

However, it seems that larger discussion networks are "associated with owning a cell phone" or using the net to share photos or IM.

Apparently, internet users are 38 per cent less likely to rely "exclusively on their spouses/partners as discussion confidants."

Meanwhile, "those who use instant messaging are even less likely, 36 per cent less likely than other internet users, or 59 per cent less likely than non-internet users to rely exclusively on their spouses/partners for important matters."

Reassuringly to trad types, "in-person contact remains the dominant means of communication with core network members." The mobe has replaced the landline as a core comms method, with texting and landlines tied.

Meanwhile, "internet activities are associated with higher levels of local activity", meaning those people with loads of Facebook friends still got out and about and are involved in neighbourhood activities.

Sadly for Hallmark, "cards and letters are the least frequent means of social contact – 8 letters or cards per year."

More details here. ®

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