The last few years have witnessed an explosive increase in the use of social networking sites. Today there are over 500 million on Facebook, and 100 million on QQ - the Chinese equivalent, as well as Orkut and Twitter. The primary purpose of this research project is to determine the nature of these sites and assess the challenge they represent to assumptions at the core of social science with regard to the decline in social relations, including the degree to which these sites have been appropriated to alleviate the negative impact of this decline. It will also focus on trends including the shift to older and less affluent users, and key consequences such as the impact on migrants and on separated families which rely on such communications. It will assess recent academic debates regarding the consequence of social networks for political action and activism, the nature of privacy and the public domain. But the research method is holistic and the seven proposed books will include a general re-thinking of core social science theory in the light of this phenomenon as well as monographs on more specific trends in usage and an overall assessment of social and welfare implications. Research has mainly been on the earlier users, mainly college students and focused on the US. But recent trends suggest future growth in older populations and in middle income regions such as Brazil and Turkey. The research consists of 15 months intensive ethnographic participation and observation, appropriate given the intimate nature of these communications. There will be seven ethnographies all based in small town sites. Some aimed at demographic breadth in China, India, Brazil and Turkey others at depth in Romania, Trinidad and the UK. The study will also include long term online participation in the social networking sites themselves with 150 informants from each country. The intensity of ethnographic depth will be matched by a commitment to comparative analysis and generalisation.