The Internet as social ally

  • Amy Tracy Wells Pew Internet & American Life Project
  • Lee Rainie Pew Internet & American Life Project


How do people use the internet to solve problems? Employing quantitative and qualitative data from two surveys, one in which a random selection of the U.S population responded and one in which a self-selected group of people responded, we argue that individuals use different sources and channels to seek information and assistance, depending on the problem they face. We find that a significant portion of online Americans turn to the internet at times because it seems to fulfill their needs more readily and thoroughly than the people in their community network do. We present evidence of when people use the internet versus seeking the assistance of friends and family and possible reasons for this behavior. This research demonstrates how, to what extent, when and why the internet supplements people’s lives.

Author Biographies

Amy Tracy Wells, Pew Internet & American Life Project
Amy is a former Research Fellow at the Pew Internet & American Life Project. She holds a PhD in Educational Psychology and Educational Technology from Michigan State University.
Lee Rainie, Pew Internet & American Life Project
Lee is the Director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, a research center that examines the social impact of the Internet. Since its creation in early 2000, the project has issued over 50 reports about America?s use of the Internet.
How to Cite
Wells, A. T., & Rainie, L. (2008). The Internet as social ally. First Monday, 13(11).