In order to track social change during a period of the rapid advances brought about by new information technologies (IT), a targeted module of IT-relevant and Internet questions was added to the 2000, 2002 and 2004 samples of the General Social Survey (GSS). The general issue inherent in and guiding the questions asked (as well as the analyses conducted) is whether IT functions to displace or expand various daily activities. In general, Internet use was not correlated with lower use of other personal communications or mass communications media—nor with lower levels of other social activities like church attendance or arts participation. In many cases the Internet was associated with increased use of other media or activities. Respondents who spend the most time on the Internet did report fewer social visits by relatives and neighbors, and perhaps less frequent sexual intercourse, but more visits with friends, compared to those who spent no time on the Internet.
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Grateful acknowledgment is given to the National Science Foundation, Office of Science and Technology, for support through grants NSF01523184, NSF0086143, and SBR-9602058 and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation’s Working Families Program.
Appendix: Yearly GSS Differences in Social Visiting Since 1990
Appendix: Yearly GSS Differences in Social Visiting Since 1990
The first way to test the declining social contact hypothesis with the GSS data is to examine whether overall declines have been seen since the introduction of the Internet since the mid-1990s. Using 1990–1994 as the reference point, it can be seen that the 2000–2004 results are not consistently nor significantly lower than the 1990–1994 results for any of the four measures.
Indeed, none of the person measures show much decrease since 1996, so that little overall decrease can be argued as a result of the Internet now taking up more time. Since the conversational “channel questions” (discussed in the text) were not asked in pre-2000 GSS surveys, there are no such comparisons possible for these questions.
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Robinson, J.P., Martin, S. IT and Activity Displacement: Behavioral Evidence from the U.S. General Social Survey (GSS). Soc Indic Res 91, 115 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11205-008-9285-9
- Internet use
- Time use
- Social life
- Mass Media Use