The New Social Operating System

By Lee Rainie and Barry Wellman

How social networks, the personalized Internet, and always-on mobile connectivity are transforming—and expanding—social life.

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How social networks, the personalized Internet, and always-on mobile connectivity are transforming—and expanding—social life.

Daily life is connected life, its rhythms driven by endless email pings and responses, the chimes and beeps of continually arriving text messages, tweets and retweets, Facebook updates, pictures and videos to post and discuss. Our perpetual connectedness gives us endless opportunities to be part of the give-and-take of networking.

Some worry that this new environment makes us isolated and lonely. But in Networked, Lee Rainie and Barry Wellman show how the large, loosely knit social circles of networked individuals expand opportunities for learning, problem solving, decision making, and personal interaction. The new social operating system of “networked individualism” liberates us from the restrictions of tightly knit groups; it also requires us to develop networking skills and strategies, work on maintaining ties, and balance multiple overlapping networks.

Rainie and Wellman outline the “triple revolution” that has brought on this transformation: the rise of social networking, the capacity of the Internet to empower individuals, and the always-on connectivity of mobile devices. Drawing on extensive evidence, they examine how the move to networked individualism has expanded personal relationships beyond households and neighborhoods; transformed work into less hierarchical, more team-driven enterprises; encouraged individuals to create and share content; and changed the way people obtain information. Rainie and Wellman guide us through the challenges and opportunities of living in the evolving world of networked individuals.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262017190 376 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 44 figures, 13 tables


$19.95 T ISBN: 9780262526166 376 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 44 figures, 13 tables


  • It's easy to find rigorous science, and it's easy to find topical stuff, but it's not easy to find both at the same time!

    Shankar Vedantam

    NPR Science

  • Lee Rainie and Barry Wellman write a remarkably approachable, nuanced, and clear-written treatise on how social networks, the Internet, and mobile technology are changing the way we live our daily lives.

    Ate Poorthuis

    Journal of Regional Science

  • Networked provides an engaging and accessible overview of the ways in which social networks, the Internet, and mobile technologies have converged to affect everyday lives.

    Vanessa P. Dennen

    Educational Technology


  • Lee Rainie and Barry Wellman have combined forces to become the new Marshall McLuhan! They draw on years of observation to weave the threads of the online and offline worlds into a deeply colored tapestry. We can see emergent social norms arising from their moving stories and insightful analyses.

    Vint Cerf

    Internet Pioneer

  • Lee Rainie and Barry Wellman have woven three enormous changes in the ways we connect—the spread of the internet, mobile tools, and social media—into a single clarifying story of our present and future life in the 21st century.

    Clay Shirky

    author of Cognitive Surplus and Here Comes Everybody

  • Just as I would not let my child loose in traffic before I taught her to look both ways, if it were up to me, nobody would be let loose online until they read Networked. From the stories of real people whose lives have been changed, often for the better, by their interactions with contemporary online social networks, to the sociological and psychological theories that explain how life is really changing in the age of 'networked individualism,' this is a must-read manual for life online today.

    Howard Rheingold

    critic and author of Net Smart, Tools for Thought, The Virtual Community, and Smart Mobs

  • The Pew Internet Project has been part of America's tech landscape for nearly as long as Google has, and five years longer than Facebook. Through that time it has earned respect and attention for its careful, systematic studies of the ways in which networked connectivity is changing some daily patterns of commercial, educational, and social interactions—and the other long-standing human patterns it had reinforced. In Networked, the Project's leader, Lee Rainie, and his co-author Barry Wellman, build on that analysis to explain what we already know about technology's impact on our lives, what we can see coming, and where the biggest surprises and uncertainties still lie.

    James Fallows

    national correspondent and technology analyst for The Atlantic

  • We live in a network society. This book explains why, how, and what, on the basis of empirical evidence and rigorous analysis. This is a well-documented, well-thought, clearly written text that will become indispensable reading for professionals and students alike.

    Manuel Castells

    Wallis Annenberg Chair in Communication Technology and Society, University of Southern California

  • Networked illuminates how search, social networking, and the always on connectivity of mobile devices are combining to transform the social role of the Internet. This book—by two leading authorities—should be required reading for courses on the Internet, new media, and society.

    William Dutton

    Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford

  • Deftly slicing through hyperbole about the communication, internet and mobile revolutions, the authors bring us face-to-face with the wellspring of modern life: the networked individual. With flair, and a dash of wry humor, they provide keen insight about how this phenomenon affects all aspects of our lives. Anyone looking to gain deeper understanding about today's social world should read this book.

    James E Katz

    Director, Center for Mobile Communication Studies, Rutgers University

  • From their rich history of research on the interconnected evolution of social networks, the internet, and mobile phones, Rainie and Wellman have assembled a cornucopia of facts and implications about work, family, and life in the new era of 'networked individualism.' When the next person asks me to talk about the network implications of social media, this is the book to which I will send them.

    Ronald S. Burt

    Professor of Sociology and Strategy, School of Business, University of Chicago; author of Structural Holes: The Social Structure of Competition


  • Honorable Mention, 2012 American Publishers Award for Professional and Scholarly Excellence (PROSE Award) in Sociology and Social Work, presented by the Professional and Scholarly Publishing Division of the Association of American Publishers
  • CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title, 2012
  • Winner, 2014 American Sociological Association Section on Communication and Information Technologies (CITASA) Book Award