When Are Net Effects Gross Products? Communication



The rush to judgment about the social effects of the new communications media has branded them as positive and negative in equal measure. Alienation from “real world” relationships coupled with a lack of social regulation within the medium is balanced by liberation from the influences, inequalities, and identities to which people are subjected in face-to-face interaction. We argue that such general conclusions may in fact be turned upside down and propose that these media may actually strengthen social bonds but also reinforce power inequalities. Reviewing evidence of our research with university students, employing the social identity model of deindividuation effects, we show how these technologies can often be more “social,” and socially regulated, than face-to-face interaction.