Netizens Are More Active Citizens

Pew study finds 85% of Twitter users, 82% of social networkers, and 75% of Americans donate their time to community groups.
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Adult Americans active on social networks are more likely to be involved in volunteer activities in the physical world, a new study by the Pew Research Center found.

While three-fourths of all Americans participate in some form of volunteer group or organization, 80% of Internet users donate their time, Pew Center's Internet & American Life Project determined. Social media users are even more likely to be active, with 82% of social network users and 85% of Twitter users stating that they participate in volunteer groups, the study said.

Pew polled 2,303 adult Americans in November and December. The study looked into 27 different types of groups such as civic, social, and religious organizations.

No matter their focus or goal, social networks like Facebook made it easier to create groups around common interests, Murray Milner, a sociology professor at the University of Virginia, told CNN. "I think the Internet probably is creating more networks," he said, although he is concerned that the Internet may weaken some friendships in favor of acquaintances.

In the study, 62% of Internet users turned to Facebook, while 12% used Twitter. The poll found 48% of respondents had a page on a social networking site, 30% had a blog, and 16% communicated with fellow group members via Twitter. About three-fourths of cell phone users relied on texting to stay in touch with fellow group members, the Pew study found.

In addition, 65% of social network site (SNS) users read updates and messages on those sites about their groups, while 30% said they had posted news about their groups on their SNS pages, the study said. Similarly, 63% of Twitter users read updates and posts on Twitter about their groups, and 21% posted news on Twitter about their organizations, the poll found. When it comes to cell phones, 45% of texters send and receive texts with other group members, the report stated.

"Social network and Twitter users are also more active in some parts of group activity: They post about group activities on their Facebook pages and Tweets; they are more likely than others to invite newbies into a group; more likely than others to be targeted for invitation to groups; more likely to use the Internet to discover groups; more likely to say the Internet enables them to participate in more groups and more likely to say they spend more time on group activities because of the Internet," the study said.

Of online Americans active in groups, 53% said the Internet has had a major impact in their ability to keep up with news and information about their groups, while 41% said it has had the same effect on their ability to organize activities, and 35% said it's empowered them to invite friends to join their groups, according to Pew. One-third credit the Internet with having a major impact on their ability to find groups that match their interests, 28% cite it as heavily impacting their ability to create their own groups, and 24% said it has had a major impact both on their ability to volunteer time and money to groups, the poll said.

In a study that began only days or weeks after a mid-term election, it is perhaps unsurprising that many respondents credited the Internet with impacting politics. In fact, 53% said the Internet played a major role in getting a candidate elected, and 46% of respondents relied heavily on the Web to raise awareness of an issue, while 38% said they went online to try to solve or change an issue in society at large, the study found.


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