The results of this study seem more to prove something about people's
expectations of the net.
The net is useful for plenty of things, as we all know. But I believe that
the most fundamental basis of true friendships and relationships is human
interaction - face to face and at the very least, voice to voice.
Basing a friendship or relationship on the internet and expecting more from
the net than it can really provide is sure to cause dissapointment. If
people use the internet to make a new friend, or use it as a substitute to
phone calls, visits, dinners, etc. in maintaining a relationship, of course
they're going to find that it just isn't as fulfilling as a rel. that has
some amount of personal contact.
So, I think I understand where the article is trying to come from. I see a
possibility where people become upset because the Net fails to meet certain
(impossible?) expectations. However, I am very skeptical about the process
of their study, and also don't agree with the causal relationship they find
between the Internet and people's psyches.
From: Mike Masnick <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: fork@xent.ICS.uci.edu <fork@xent.ICS.uci.edu>; email@example.com
Date: Sunday, August 30, 1998 3:55 PM
Subject: Internet causes loneliness
>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.
>THE LONELY NET
>A two-year, $1.5-million study by researchers at Carnegie Mellon
>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
>Internet use led on average to an increase of 1% on the depression scale,
>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
>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)