Society’s (Virtually) Time-Free Transition into the Digital Age
Rent the article at a discountRent now
* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.Get Access
Three early studies of the impact of IT on American society suggested that it was having a negative impact on social life, as well as mass media use. This article reviews the results from two large multiyear US national surveys that have been monitoring social change in US daily life with high response rates: (1) the 1974–2012 General Social Survey (GSS; with more than 55,000 adult respondents aged 18+) and (2) the 2003–2011 American Time-Use Survey (ATUS; with more than 100,000 such respondents). The GSS has collected time-estimate data on particular social and media activities, while the ATUS surveys have collected complete 24-h diary accounts across a single day. Our analysis is conducted on two levels to determine whether various social/media activities have changed (1) at the aggregate societal level as new IT have diffused over the last 20 years and (2) among individuals who use these new media more. In both surveys, there seems little if any significant impact of these new media on social/media time, even though they had become the predominant source of information and social contact by 2004. GSS respondents in general have not reported lower levels of social or media contact since the 1990s, and while those GSS respondents who spent more time on the Internet did report fewer social visits with relatives, they reported more visits with friends, compared to those who do not use the Internet. The main difference between users and nonusers in the ATUS was with time at paid work, and that was only partially explained by higher Internet use by teens and on days off from work. For reading and certain other behaviors, Internet use was sometimes associated with increased use in these surveys. Moreover, no consistent decline in either social or media activities was found in either survey across this period of Internet diffusion, much in line with the earlier national studies. At the same time, it seems clear that not only the ATUS but diary studies in other countries are failing to capture the significant social impact of IT on the rest of life in the new digital age.
- Andrews, F, Morgan, J, Sonquist, J (1973) Multiple classification analysis. Institute for Social Research, Ann Arbor, MI
- Bogart, L. (1956). The age of television: A study of viewing habits and the impact of television on American life. New York: Unger.
- Coffin, T. (1954). Television’s impact on society. American Psychologist, 10, 630–641.
- Cole, J, Suman, J, Schramm, P, Lunn, R, Coget, J (2001) The UCLA Internet report 2001. Surveying the digital future. University of California, Los Angeles, Center for Communication Policy, Los Angeles
- Gershuny, J (2003) Web-use and net-nerds: A neo-functionalist analysis of the impact of information technology in the home. Social Forces 82: pp. 141-168 CrossRef
- Holmes, M., & Bloxham, M. (2009). An observational method for time use research: Lessons learned from the Middletown Media Studies. Social Indicators Research, 93, 245–248.
- Kraut, R, Patterson, M, Lundmark, V, Kiesler, S, Mukophadhyay, T, Scherlis, W (1998) Internet paradox. American Psychologist 53: pp. 1017-1031 CrossRef
- Marsden, P eds. (2012) Social trends in American life. Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J.
- McQuail, D (1994) McQuail’s mass communication theory. Sage, London
- Nie, NH, Erbring, L (2000) Internet and society: A preliminary report. IT and Society 1: pp. 275-283
- Nie, N., & Hillygus, D. (2002). Where does Internet time come from? IT & Society, 2, 1–20.
- Nielsen/NetRatings. (1999). TV viewing in Internet households. A report by Nielsen Media Research. Retrieved from http://www.n Nielsen/NetRatings. Retrieved from http://www.nielsen-netratings.com/.
- Robinson, JP Television’s impact on everyday life: Some cross-national evidence. In: Rubinstein, E, Comstock, G, Murray, J eds. (1972) Television and social behavior. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, pp. 410-431
- Robinson, JP, Barth, K, Kohut, A (1997) Personal computers, mass media, and use of time. Social Science Computer Review 15: pp. 65-82 CrossRef
- Robinson, J, Haan, J Information technology and family time displacement. In: Kraut, R, Brynan, M, Kiesler, S eds. (2006) Computers, phones and the internet. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 51-69
- Robinson, JP, Godbey, G (1999) Time for life: The surprising ways Americans use their time. Pennsylvania State University Press, University Park
- Robinson, J. P., & Kestnbaum, M. (1999). The personal computer, culture and other uses of free time. Social Science Computer Review, 17(2), 209–216.
- Robinson, JP, Kestnbaum, M, Neustadtl, A, Alvarez, A (2000) Mass media use and social life among Internet users. Social Science Computer Review 18: pp. 490-501 CrossRef
- Robinson, J., & Martin, S. (2009). IT and activity displacement: Behavioral evidence from the US General Social Survey (GSS). Social Indicators Research, 91(2), 115–139.
- Schramm, WL, Lyle, J, Parker, EB (1961) Television in the lives of our children. Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA
- Szalai, A (1972) The use of time: Daily activities of urban and suburban populations in twelve countries. Mouton, The Hague
- Weiss, W Effects of mass media on communication. In: Lindzey, G, Aronson, E eds. (1969) Handbook of social psychology. Addison-Wesley, Reading, MA, pp. 77-195
- Wellman, B, Haase, A, Witte, J, Hampton, K (2001) Does the internet increase, decrease or supplement social capital? Social network, participation and community commitment. American Behavioral Scientist 45: pp. 437-456 CrossRef
- Wright, CR (1986) Mass communication; a sociological perspective. Random House, New York
- Society’s (Virtually) Time-Free Transition into the Digital Age
Social Indicators Research
Volume 117, Issue 3 , pp 939-965
- Cover Date
- Print ISSN
- Online ISSN
- Springer Netherlands
- Additional Links
- Social change
- Media effects
- Time use
- Industry Sectors