Internet causes loneliness

Mike Masnick (
Sun, 30 Aug 1998 11:38:33 -0700

Lovely story from the NYTimes (in the Edupage condensed version below). I
can already see the backlash. My own take is that I would like to see the
study's methodology (I'm about to go looking for it), as they even admit
that it wasn't a random sample. This seems like just another example of
the NYTimes looking for a story that makes the internet look bad. Every
time I see people complain about things like this, I think a lot of it has
to do with the fact that people just are too naive about the 'net. They
think it's easy and simple. Fact is, you need some form of "Internet
street smarts" to be comfortable. Those folks who are comfortable with
Internet do just fine, for the most part.

I'm sure for some people the internet really does allow them to create
shallow friendships. Hell, when I first got on the Internet, I'm sure I
created some shallow friendships as well. I probably spent a bit less time
talking to friends and family. Then I got the hang of it, and things have
worked out fine.

Any thoughts?


A two-year, $1.5-million study by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University,
funded by the National Science Foundation and major technology companies,
has concluded that Internet use appears to cause a decline in psychological
well-being. A director of the study says, "We are not talking here about
the extremes. These were normal adults and their families, and on average,
for those who used the Internet most, things got worse." One hour a week of
Internet use led on average to an increase of 1% on the depression scale, an
increase of 0.04% on the loneliness scale, and a loss of 2.7 members of the
subject's social circle (which averaged 66 people). Although the study
participants used e-mail, chat rooms, and other social features of the
Internet to interact with others, they reported a decline in interaction
with their own family members and a reduction in their circles of friends.
"Our hypothesis is, there are more cases where you're building shallow
relationships [on the Internet], leading to an overall decline in feeling of
connection to other people." Since the 169 study participants, all from the
Pittsburgh area, were not chosen in a random selection process, it is not
clear how the findings apply to the general population, but a RAND
Corporation senior scientist says, "They did an extremely careful
scientific study, and it's not a result that's easily ignored." (New York
Times 30 Aug 98)