Community networking and locally‐based social ties in two suburban localities

Mesch, G. S., & Levanon, Y.

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Mesch, G. S., & Levanon, Y. (2003). Community networking and locally‐based social ties in two suburban localities. City & Community, 2(4), 335–351.

Concerns have been expressed that Internet use may affect social participation and involvement in the local community. Internet use can be viewed as a time-consuming activity, and it may come at the expense of face-to-face activities. The time people devote to using the Internet might replace time spent on neighborly relations and community involvement. However, the use of computer-mediated communication in geographically-based communities might also increase face-to-face communication and even solve some of the problems associated with decreasing participation and involvement in the local community. The purpose of this study was to explore the relationship between membership in a geographically-based mailing list and locally based social ties. A web-based survey of subscribers to two suburban mailing lists in Israel was conducted to investigate the relationship between membership in a mailing list and neighborhood social ties, social ties in the extended community, and the movement from online to face-to-face relationships. It was found that although membership on the mailing list did not affect the extent of neighborhood interactions, it increased the number of individuals a participant knew in the community. Online relationships with members of the local community proved likely to change into face-to-face relationships. The results imply that community networking increases social involvement and participation not in the immediate neighborhood but in the extended community and serves to complement traditional channels of communication.

Main finding
The researchers found online community networking to complement traditional forms of communication, increasing the likelihood of participation and social involvement in the extended community at religious, political, and cultural events. The relationship found was correlative, not causal. The mailing list did not replace traditional ways of creating and developing local social relationships. The most likely places to meet new people were still through casual encounters in public space, at the supermarket, synagogue, school, on the bus, or on the street.

Description of method used in the article
The researchers conducted an online survey of 153 mailing list users to measure dependent variables, such as neighborhood interactions, number of acquaintances, and number of online relationships that led to face-to-face meetings; and independent variables, such as demographics and extent of mailing list membership.

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