Does Online Technology Make Us More or Less Sociable? A Preliminary Review and Call for Research

Perspect Psychol Sci. 2018 Jul;13(4):473-491. doi: 10.1177/1745691617746509. Epub 2018 May 14.


How does online technology affect sociability? Emerging evidence-much of it inconclusive-suggests a nuanced relationship between use of online technology (the Internet, social media, and virtual reality) and sociability (emotion recognition, empathy, perspective taking, and emotional intelligence). Although online technology can facilitate purely positive behavior (e.g., charitable giving) or purely negative behavior (e.g., cyberbullying), it appears to affect sociability in three ways, depending on whether it allows a deeper understanding of people's thoughts and feelings: (a) It benefits sociability when it complements already-deep offline engagement with others, (b) it impairs sociability when it supplants deeper offline engagement for superficial online engagement, and (c) it enhances sociability when deep offline engagement is otherwise difficult to attain. We suggest potential implications and moderators of technology's effects on sociability and call for additional causal research.

Keywords: empathy; human-computer interaction; sociability; technology; virtual reality.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Mobile Applications*
  • Social Behavior*
  • Technology*
  • Virtual Reality*