A report issued Wednesday
by the Pew Research Center found that only 43 percent of Americans know all or most of their neighbors by name. Twenty-nine percent know only some, and 28 percent know none. (Oh, my God! When Roger dashes off to Paris this summer, I’ll become a “none.”)
Yet I have thousands of “friends” and “followers” on the social-networking sites in which I vigorously participate. (In real life, I maintain a circle of friends so small that I could barely arrange a circle.) Something is wrong with this picture.
I am by no means a woe-is-us, sky-is-falling, evil-is-the-Internet type. In fact, I think that a free flow of information has led to greater civic engagement. Yippee! However, I am very much aware that social networks are rewiring our relationships and that our keyboard communities are affecting the attachments in our actual ones.
For instance, a Pew report issued in November 2009
and entitled “Social Isolation and New Technology” found that “users of social networking services are 26 percent less likely to use their neighbors as a source of companionship.”