Pew-Social-Side-of-InternetIn their just released report “The Social Side of the Internet” the Pew Research Center presents data which presents a mixed, but encouraging picture of the role online communications and social networks have in supporting volunteer and charitable organizations. 

Of their major findings, Pew found that not only are internet users more likely to be active participants, with volunteer groups: 80% vs. 54%  for non-connected volunteers-  That of all Americans, 68% believe the internet has had a major impact on the ability of groups to draw attention to an issue, with 59% also reporting that the internet has had a major impact on the ability of groups to impact society at large. 

Of groups that have achieved a goal in the last 12 months, an impressive majority cite the internet as the playing a major role in getting a candidate elected to office and raising awareness about an issue. This is especially striking given that Pew’s other finding that only 15% of Americans report being active in political parties and organizations. Overall, Pew found that more Americans volunteer with religious and spiritual groups than anything else, with 40% participation.

In terms of how people use the internet to interact with groups,  65% of report visiting their group’s website and an astounding  56% reported reading an email newsletter. Pew also found that the internet is a key tool for mobilizing and expanding groups, with 57% of internet users joining a group in response to an online invitation.

Turning to the role of social media, not only are social media users considerably more likely than anyone else to be involved with volunteer groups, (82% of social network users & 85% of Twitter users participate) social media users are also the most likely to contribute to their  volunteer groups, either by inviting friends (48% of social network users  & 65% of Twitter users) or sharing content (30% social networks 21% Twitter).


As to whether or not this this report confirms or deny the points raised by  Malcom Gladwell in his article: “Small Change- Why the Revolution will not be Tweeted,” while it would seem to call into question his argument that social networks are not having much of an impact, on the other hand Pew did not  survey for  activities that one would consider ‘high risk activism.’