Does the Internet Increase, Decrease, or Supplement Social Capital?
How does the Internet affect social capital? Do the communication possibilities of the Internet increase, decrease, or supplement interpersonal contact, participation, and community commitment? This evidence comes from a 1998 survey of 39,211 visitors to the National Geographic Society Web site, one of the first large-scale Web surveys. The authors find that people's interaction online supplements their face-to-face and telephone communication without increasing or decreasing it. However, heavy Internet use is associated with increased participation in voluntary organizations and politics. Further support for this effect is the positive association between offline and online participation in voluntary organizations and politics. However, the effects of the Internet are not only positive: The heaviest users of the Internet are the least committed to online community. Taken together, this evidence suggests that the Internet is becoming normalized as it is incorporated into the routine practices of everyday life.