Hardly a month passes without a popular news outlet or a pundit asking if the Internet is making us lonely. Meanwhile, social media remains the Internet’s most popular application, and almost every empirical study suggests that Internet use corresponds to more social interaction (face-to-face and online) and less loneliness. Why such a strong disconnect between punditry and the data? This essay tries to unpack the complex, multifaceted changes brought about by social technologies and argues that the Internet may not make us lonelier, but it does help reconfigure our networks, differentially create social winners and losers, and contribute to tensions, especially around balancing our social roles and the erosion of boundaries between work and nonwork.

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