Lee Rainie is the former managing editor of U.S. News and World Report and Director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. Barry Wellman directs NetLab at the Faculty of Information, University of Toronto; the founder of the International Network for School Network Analysis and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. Rainie and Wellman collaborated to write this book to inform the masses on the role technology plays in the social world. They outline a “Triple Revolution”, the Network Revolution, the Internet Revolution, and the Mobile Revolution, the outcome of which is “networked individualism.” The networked individual is the focus. Through the use of technology “the social network operating system is personal- the individual is at the autonomous center just as they are reaching out from their computer; multiuser- people are interacting with numerous divers others; multitasking- people are doing several things; and multithreaded- they are doing them more or less simultaneously” (p.7). Through the use of technology we have become more socially connected.
The “Triple Revolution” has three parts, the Network Revolution, the Internet Revolution, and the Mobile Revolution. The Network Revolution is a shift from an agrarian society to an industrial society. In an agrarian society life was family centered, then with the rise of industrialization there was a shift from family centered to location centered. Society is no longer the sum of individuals or of the ties between two people, but “rather, everyone is embedded in structures of relationships that provide opportunities, constraints, coalitions, and work-arounds… it is made out of a tangled of networked individuals who operate in specialized, fragmented, sparsely interconnected, and permeable networks” (p. 21). Society became centered around were one is lives and works. The Internet Revolution was a shift from location centered to an individual centered society; also a change in how information is shared. It has allowed people to be in control of how and what information gets shared creating new methods for social networking. The Mobile Revolution has allowed for the social connection via technology to be made from anywhere. The use of mobile technology has made “people’s physical separation by time and space are less important” (p. 12). “Space and time become softer…location is becoming important – but mobile apps find people wherever they are…[and] distance is dead, it is being renegotiated” (p. 108) allowing for social connections to be maintained at all times regardless of location, distance, space, and time. Networked Individuals has created networked relationships, networked families, networked work, networked creators, and networked information. All of which focuses on the interests and needs of the individual and are for the benefit of the individual.
Rainie and Wellman’s claim that technology allows us to be more socially connected is evident, especially in my own life. Without technology and social media I would not be able to have on going communication with my mom and my family. For I attend college in Minnesota, but I am form Virginia Beach, Virginia so there is a great deal of distance between my family and myself. Technology has help made the separation due to distance less apparent because I can just pick up my iPhone and text her and have instant communication with her. Even though texting my mom and talking to her on the phone is not the same as being with her face-to-face, in person, it is better than having no communication with her at all while I am at college. Many college students use technology the same way I do to keep in contact with their friends from back home. Technology is being used to maintain relationships as well as to maintain and expand social connectivity. I have also used social media to start relationships with future classmates the summer before college, because I wanted to go into college having a few friendly faces to look for that first week and Facebook helped me do that. A Facebook page for the Concordia St. Paul class of 2021 was created for the purpose for us to create connections and start getting to know who our classmates are. Universities are taking advantage of technology by offering classes online. With online classes students of all ages are in a class with people they will most likely never meet in person, and yet they are expected to interact the same way as if they were in a traditional classroom setting by collaborating on projects and contributing to discussions. Online classes are proof that society is shifting from a face-to-face-in-person form of socializing to relying on technology for socializing and communicating. This shift is not necessarily negative, however we as individuals must be careful not to let technology completely replace in person relationships, because strong in person relations is the only way society with prosper. Rainie and Wellman provide a list of rules on how to thrive as a networked individual: “Invest in existing relationships via the Golden Rule so that it will be there when needed…Use information and communication technologies enthusiastically and nimbly…Use technology to develop your access to a wider audience that can share your interests…Do not count on a single, tightly connected group of strong ties to help…Develop meaningful new ties as you go along and be especially alert to reaching into new social circles that you serve your purposes…Develop larger and more diverse networks…Act “transitively”… Act as autonomous agents to cultivate your personal networks… Monitor and manage your reputation – your personal brand… Segment your identity…Develop the knack of functioning effectively in different contexts and “collapsed contexts”… Build high levels of trust and social capital in each network segment…Manage boundaries… Be aware of invisible audiences… Manage time well; multitask strategically” (p. 263 – 272). This addresses that caution must be taken when using technology in a social way ensuring that the individual is getting as much as benefit as possible from all social connections. For the purpose of networked individualism is that the individual’s social connections are strong and widespread.