Juggling multiple social worlds: Distance students online and offline

Michelle M. Kazmer, Caroline Haythornthwaite

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Using the Internet means bringing into our offline lives yet another social world, one in which we operate through media, communicating and maintaining ties with people who live at a distance and who we may rarely or never meet. How successfully do we manage integration of this new world into our existing world? Do worlds collide or seamlessly integrate into a cohesive whole ? For 1 year, the authors followed 17 students as they engaged in a distance learning program. The authors explored their involvement with the online learning community and how this affected their relationships with family, work, volunteer, and peer groups. Students' satisfaction with the program increased, and anxiety about operating in the online world decreased, with increased involvement with the learning community. This was realized at the expense of offline communities and activities. However, the authors also found a reverse trend when students reengaged with offline life as they neared the end of their program. This work highlights the importance of temporal aspects of involvement in online worlds and provides some insight into the priorities, needs, and rewards involved with managing multiple worlds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)510-529
Number of pages20
JournalAmerican Behavioral Scientist
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences


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