I have a new paper on the relationship between the overall diversity of people’s social networks, their use of social media and use of traditional social settings, such as churches, cafes, public parks, neighborhoods, and voluntary groups. The paper is coauthored with Chul-joo Lee (The Ohio State University), and my student Eun Ja (Jenny) Her and will appear next year in the journal New Media & Society.

This paper examines how the use of \“social media\” – information and communication technologies that are assumed to promote interaction, such as the mobile phone, social networking websites, blogging, instant messaging, and photo sharing – are related to the diversity of people’s personal networks. We find that a limited set of technologies directly afford diversity, but many indirectly contribute to diversity by supporting participation in traditional settings such as neighborhoods, voluntary groups, religious institutions, and public spaces. Only one Internet activity, social networking websites, was related to lower levels of participation in a traditional setting: neighborhoods. However, when direct effects were included, the total influence of social networking services on diversity was positive. We argue that a focus on affordances of new media for networked individualism fails to recognize the continued importance of place for the organization of personal networks. Networks, that as a result of the \“pervasive awareness\” offered by some new technologies, may be more persistent and diverse than at any time in recent history.
You can download a draft copy of the paper here.