The technologies of the triple revolution, the authors write, allow us to connect with a larger, more diverse network, including close and distant friends and acquaintances. They make it possible to gather new and useful information in quantities and at speeds heretofore not experienced by humans. And they let people connect with others while on the go, meaning we are accessible in a way that only emergency personnel doing shift work used to be. The result of these frequently discussed changes, according to Rainie and Wellman, is a new framework—or “social operating system,” as they put it—which they call “networked individualism.” The new system has four central traits:
The social network operating system is "Personal"—the individual is at the autonomous center just as she is reaching out from her computer; "Multiuser"—people are interacting with numerous diverse others; "Multitasking"—people are doing several things; and "Multithreaded"—they are doing them more or less simultaneously. This system, they write, is encouraging the formation of new kinds of community that serve people well.
The conclusions the authors draw run counter to the pessimistic ruminations of much of the older intellectual world, who see people drawing apart from one another while glued to their computers and mobile phones. In contrast, Networked is dedicated to the proposition that the new social operating system empowers individuals by allowing them to reach out to close and distant friends, even strangers, in a way that small-group–oriented communities never allowed.