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Two social lives: How differences between online and offline interaction influence social outcomes


For hundreds of thousands of years, humans only communicated in person, but in just the past fifty years they have started also communicating online. Today, people communicate more online than offline. What does this shift mean for human social life? We identify four structural differences between online (versus offline) interaction: (1) fewer nonverbal cues, (2) greater anonymity, (3) more opportunity to form new social ties and bolster weak ties, and (4) wider dissemination of information. Each of these differences underlies systematic psychological and behavioral consequences. Online and offline lives often intersect; we thus further review how online engagement can (1) disrupt or (2) enhance offline interaction. This work provides a useful framework for studying the influence of technology on social life (119/120).

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