The next time you’re in a real-life group setting, beware. Look around. Be suspicious. If you look closely enough, you may find something that you least suspected: many of the group’s active participants may be using this thing that some call “the Internet.”
Crazy, crazy, crazy, you tell me.
In fact, I hear this a lot. Many that I interact with have an inherent skepticism that online people are, in fact, real life people.
But this isn’t true – at least, not according to a new study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Their new study, entitled “The Social Side of the Internet,” cites research that Internet users are “more active participants in their [real life] groups than other adults.”
Here’s what they found:
- 69% of Internet users have attended meetings or events for groups that they are active in, as compared to 54% of non-Internet users.
- 64% of Internet users have volunteered their time to a group that they are active in, as compared to 47% of non-Internet users.
- 60% of Internet users have contributed money to a group they are active in, as compared to 50% of non-Internet users.
- 34% of Internet users have taken a leadership role in a group they are active in, as compared to 19% of non-Internet users.
Holy moly, we’ve let them out. Someone has let the Internet people out of their basements, and they are invading our real-life groups. We must put a stop to this.
But seriously, the truth is that “online people” have always been a part of real-life groups. They just also happen to use that Internet machine. Countless studies have shown that people that use the Internet are opinion leaders.
I like to tell a story of when this notion first clicked for me. Back in college, I was on the web and came across a potential presidential candidate that you may have heard of: Howard Dean. His candidacy resonated with me, and after a short period of time I attended my first Howard Dean Meetup. When I got there, I found that there were many people like me. They read about his campaign online, and were motivated to show up – in-person – to see if we could get this candidate elected to office. In the end, many of us became a “real life” group in the process.
With that, I would suggest an important point: activating people online doesn’t mean that as a “New Media Guy,” I’m merely looking for people to be active in just the online realm. Rather, activism – especially in the 2010’s – needs to be both online and offline. In fact, I don’t see them as independent of each other.
Pew’s research brings up some very important points that hopefully break some stereotypes ingrained in many people. Internet users are not lazy. They show up in person, volunteer their time, and take leadership roles. In fact, dare I suggest, Internet people may just happen to be the types of “offline” activists that many organizations covet.