IT and Activity Displacement: Behavioral Evidence from the U.S. General Social Survey (GSS)

Abstract

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.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1

References

  1. Andrews, F., Morgan, J., & Sonquist, J. (1973). Multiple classification analysis. Ann Arbor, MI: Institute for Social Research.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Bell, D. (1977) [1980]. Teletext and technology: New networks of knowledge and information in postindustrial society. In D. Bell (Ed.), The winding passage: Essays and sociological journeys, 1960–1980 (pp. 34–65). New York: Basic Books.

  3. Bogart, L. (1956). The age of television: A study of viewing habits and the impact of television on American life. New York: Unger.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Castells, M. (1996). The information age: Economy, society, and culture: Vol. 2: The rise of the network society. Oxford, UK: Blackwell.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Coffin, T. (1954). Television’s impact on society. American Psychologist, 10, 630–641.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Cole, J., Suman, J., Schramm, P., Lunn, R., Coget, J., et al. (2001). The UCLA Internet report 2001. Surveying the digital future. Los Angeles: University of California, Los Angeles, Center for Communication Policy.

  7. De Haan, J., & Huysmans, F. (2002). Differences in time use between internet users and nonusers in the Netherlands. IT and Society, 1(2), 67–85.

    Google Scholar 

  8. De Haan, J., & Huysmans, F. (2003). Revolution or eVolution, an empirical approach to eCulture. In D. Dodd (Ed.), eCulture: The European perspective: Cultural policy—knowledge industries—information lag. Conference reader Zagreb, Croatia, 24–27 April 2003. Retrieved from http://www.culturelink.org/conf/ecult/ecultread.html.

  9. Fu, S., Wang, R., & Qiu, Y. (2002). Daily activity and Internet use in dual-earner families: A weekly time-diary approach. IT and Society, 1(2), 37–43.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Gershuny, J. (2003). Web-use and net-nerds: A neo-functionalist analysis of the impact of information technology in the home. Social Forces, 82(1), 141–168.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Kestnbaum, M., Robinson, J. P., Neustadtl, A., & Alvarez, A. S. (2002). IT and social time displacement. IT and Society, 1(1), 21–37.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Knulst, W. P. (1995). Podia in een tijdperk van afstandsbediening. Onderzoek naar achtergronden van veranderingen in de omvang en samenstelling van het podiumpubliek sinds de jaren vijftig. Het culturele draagvlak, deel 1. Rijswijk/Den Haag: SCP/VUGA.

  13. Knulst, W. P., & Kraaykamp, G. (1996). Leesgewoonten. Een halve eeuw onderzoek naar het lezen en zijn belagers. Het culturele draagvlak, deel 2. Rijswijk/Den Haag: SCP/VUGA.

  14. Kraut, R. et al. (1998). Internet paradix. American Psychologist, 53(9), 1017–1031.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. McQuail, D. (1994). McQuail’s mass communication theory (4th ed.). London: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Nie, N. H., & Erbring, L. (2000). Internet and society: A preliminary report. IT and Society, 1(1), 275–283.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Nielsen/NetRatings. (1999). TV viewing in Internet households. A report by Nielsen Media Research. Retrieved from Retrieved from http://www.nielsen-netratings.com/.

  18. Pronovost, G. (2002). The Internet and time displacement: A Canadian perspective. IT and Society, 1(2), 44–52.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Robinson, J. P. (1972). Television’s impact on everyday life: Some cross-national evidence. In E. Rubinstein, G. Comstock & J. Murray (Eds.), Television and social behavior (Vol. 4, pp. 410–431). Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Robinson, J. P., Barth, K., & Kohut, A. (1997). Personal computers, mass media, and use of time. Social Science Computer Review, 15, 65–82.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Robinson, J., & De Haan, J. (2006). Information technology and family time displacement. In R. Kraut, M. Brynan & S. Kiesler (Eds.), Computers, phones and the Internet (pp. 51–69). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Robinson, J. P., & Godbey, G. (1999). Time for life: The surprising ways Americans use their time. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  23. Robinson, J. P., & Kestnbaum, M. (1999). The personal computer, culture and other uses of free time. Social Science Computer Review, 17, 209–216.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Robinson, J. P., Kestnbaum, M., Neustadtl, A., & Alvarez, A. (2000). Mass media use and social life among Internet users. Social Science Computer Review, 18(4), 490–501.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Schramm, W. L., Lyle, J., & Parker, E. B. (1961). Television in the lives of our children. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Szalai, A. (1972). The use of time: Daily activities of urban and suburban populations in twelve countries. The Hague: Mouton.

    Google Scholar 

  27. van Dijk, L., De Haan, J., & Rijken, S. (2000). Digitalisering van de leefwereld; een onderzoek naar informatie-en communicatietechnologie en sociale ongelijkheid; eindrapport. Den Haag: SCP.

  28. Weiss, W. (1969). Effects of mass media on communication. In G. Lindzey & E. Aronson (Eds.), Handbook of social psychology (Vol. 5, pp. 77–195). Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

    Google Scholar 

  29. Wellman, B., Haase, A., Witte, J., Hampton, K., et al. (2001). Does the internet increase, decrease or supplement social capital? Social network, participation and community commitment. American Behavioral Scientist, 45, 437–456.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Wright, C. R. (1986). Mass communication; a sociological perspective. New York: Random House.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

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.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to John P. Robinson.

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.

Appendix 1 Changes in annual social visits by year

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

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

Download citation

Keywords

  • Internet use
  • Time use
  • Methodology
  • Social life
  • Mass Media Use