Does Internet Use Crowd Out Face-To-Face Ties? Empirical Evidence from the Cumulative General Social Survey Data
Hun Myoung Park
This study examines if Internet use crowds out or facilitates face-to-face ties by analyzing the cumulative General Social Survey data. Assumed is that the impact of Internet use varies according to types of Internet services and modes of Internet use. GSS data show that face-to-face engagements measured in spending a social evening, friends, and relatives staying in contact with, and voluntary membership remained almost unchanged for the past four decades. No sharp slash or jump was observed before and after the late 1990s. Spending a social evening with relatives, neighbors, and friends are not influenced by Internet use regardless of whether they are email, WWW, or deliberative and entertaining purposes. Emailing and deliberative use of WWW are positively related to the number of friends and relatives keeping in touch with by face-to-face, meetings or events, telephone, and U.S. postal mail, while the time spent for WWW has the negative effect. Finally, voluntary membership is positively associated with deliberative use of WWW and not with email and WWW use for entertainment. The Internet is not necessarily a technology culprit of the decline in social capital but its impact depends how effectively people use for society and themselves.