The Peter and Trudy story in Chapter 1 of Networked by Rainee and Wellman proves that a significant shift has happened. On page 8, theres a powerful quote, "In generations past, people usually had small, tight social networks- in rural areas or urban villages- where a few important family members, close friends, neighbors, leaders and community groups (churches and the like)constituted the safety net and support system for individuals." One page later, Rainee and Wellman point out that, "Except in emergencies, they can no longer passively let the village take care of them and control them. They must actively network. They need to expend effort and sometimes money to maintain their ties near and far..."
This difference is important. Research demonstrates that happiness is derived from relationships, and these relationships make up our social networks. The fact that your network directly effects YOU makes understanding our networks relevant to all. On page 42: "...people are about 15 percent more likely to be happy if they have close ties with happy people." And more grave: "...if a person is depressed ,then their friends are liklier to be depressed." Research supports that you become like those in your social network. It's powerful in many ways.
The beginning of Chapter 2 argues, "everyone is embedded in structures of relationships that provide opportunities, constraints, coalitions, and work-arounds." In the context of examples in the text, this is true. Peter and Trudy had the opportunity to share an image of Trudy in the hospital- head bandaged, brain injured- with friends as an update. Their situation and challenge was shared and spread. Others in different branches of their network formed coalitions to assist and support them throughout her recovery. This allowed them to work-around some financial barriers. It also provided contact with happy people helping out, which undoubtably enabled the couple to stay positive more easily.
But the most important connection to make here is the constraints factor the authors mentioned. If Peter did not cease the opportunity and make the effort to send that image of Trudy in her injured state, would their story have reached their network or reached the part of their network that could truly help? The fact that technological skill like use of devices, significant effort, and an understanding of how to reach certain audiences within your social network (since the Internet is ubiquitous now and even perpetrated the "Laggards" category of the Innovation Curve (pg. 47)) is absolutely necessary and required is a problem for society. Mostly because there are a sad minority of individuals out there that would be very supported and would enjoy close, strong relationships in the previous non-digital generation, but lack the skills and understanding to navigate and leverage their social network now that the network has migrated online. They miss out on the close relationships, and therefore happiness, that they deserve. Machine is depleting man in these rare cases.