Is the grass any greener? Pervasive awareness, social media, and well-being


July 24, 2014


Keith Hampton


Rutgers University


Social media, we have been promised, supports the well-being of individuals and society. It has been said that it offers new opportunities for democratic participation, that it supports collective action and gives individuals a voice. Social capital, once lost through the dormancy of ties, hidden as a result of infrequent contact, has been made visible through the persistent and pervasive nature of social media. Yet, it is often said that these technologies do not live up to their hype, that they contribute to social isolation, stress, and disengagement. This presentation argues that community on and offline is being reorganized as a result of digital technologies that afford and constrain engagement. Evidence from a series of empirical studies explains how digital technologies are related to social capital, deliberation, caring, and the joy that we sometimes get from the awareness that we are all missing out.


Keith Hampton

Keith N. Hampton is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication, School of Communication and Information, at Rutgers University. He received his Ph.D. and M.A. from the University of Toronto in sociology, and a B.A. in sociology from the University of Calgary. Before joining the faculty at Rutgers, he was a member of the faculty in the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania, and a faculty member in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He regularly offers courses in social network analysis, mediated communication, and research methods. His research interests focus on the relationship between new information and communication technologies, social networks, and the urban environment. Through a broad range of empirical approaches, that has included ethnographies of urban neighborhoods, observations of public spaces, and large-scale national surveys, he has been studying the social consequences of the Internet since the late 1990s. Most recently, he has looked at how stress, social capital, social isolation, helping behavior, political participation, and democratic deliberation have changed as a result of the use of new digital technologies.