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Thread: How Lonely Is the Life That Is Lived Online?

  1. #1

    How Lonely Is the Life That Is Lived Online?

    January 21, 2002


    How Lonely Is the Life That Is Lived Online?
    By JOHN MARKOFF


    When the Internet burst on the popular scene in the early 1990's, its advocates argued that it heralded a so-called virtual community that offered rich new forms of human contact.

    But two years ago, a Stanford University political scientist, Norman H. Nie, touched off a bitter dispute by reporting that data from a big survey indicated that the Internet was an isolating medium - that the more time people spent using the Internet, the less time they were likely to spend in face-to-face human contact.

    Despite his critics, who argued that Internet interaction is its own form of human contact, Mr. Nie is standing by his thesis. In a chapter to appear in the coming book "The Internet in Everyday Life," edited by Barry Wellman and Caroline Haythornthwaite, Mr. Nie and two of his colleagues, D. Sunshine Hillygus and Lutz Ebring, report the findings of a new survey of how 6,000 Americans spend their time each day.

    The study concludes that Internet use at home has a strong negative impact on time spent with friends and family, while Internet use at work decreases the time spent with colleagues.

    Mr. Nie, who was co-inventor of a research tool widely used by social scientists, the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences, was a political scientist at the University of Chicago and a senior study director at the National Opinion Research Center before coming to Stanford in 1998 to establish the Stanford Institute for the Quantitative Study of Society.

    He is openly skeptical of the argument made by the Internet's defenders that the medium increases the number of social contacts of its users. "The question is not the number of friends you have, it's the time you spend with them," he said.

    What the current study does not address are the consequences of the isolation that may result from Internet use. That is the subject of Mr. Nie's next project. He will soon have survey data that examines a range of social and psychological variables that may show whether Internet users are happy, socially adjusted or depressed.

  2. #2
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    I find this post to have had impeccable timing....thank you Seneca!

    I literally had this conversation an hour before you posting this how "I wondered if there is a study done on the overuse of the internet and its affects on it users?"

    I figured I would not have an answer for years to come, since this is this generations "thing". I asked this as I see my two teenage nieces (16 and 14) are always on the computer and I see how a simple family function such as dinner cannot take place without one or the other, or both getting up to see who logged on every 2 or 3 minutes. I also notice that as soon they come through the door (when they visit)after greeting everyone there is a mad dash for my computer!

    Somehow I don't think this is healthy, I'm just not sure how. I try to make the analogy of when I was that age it was call waiting and 3-way calling and it was cool to have 5 or 6 people on the line at once even though as soon as you would get that many on someone could not here the other, but you get my drift.

    Well thanks again for posting this.

  3. #3
    I must say that the issue is much more complicated than this article portrays. Let me pose the following for consideration:

    1. Many studies suggest that internet time is now superceding television time. If true, I think that it is a valid argument that internet contact (particularly on the kind that we have here on the forums) involves much more human contact than watching the boob tube.

    2. The quality of the interaction and the information that one receives is very important. If you compared the time that one might spend at a bar and the time that one spends online, I think that the latter may represent more and better human contact. I think that we can argue that the quality of information being provided at forums like this is high, higher than one can get in most social gatherings. Likewise, the quality of the interaction is also higher, i.e. more caring.

    3. The use of language for communication. Please forgive the following observation but I do believe that the quality of postings that people make improves the more time they spend on these forums. Vocabulary has improved and the clarity of postings improves. And people are becoming much more knowledgeable about what they are posting about.

    4. Finally, what is the difference between being online and being on the telephone? Teenagers use to spend hours on the phone with each other, probably saying no more or less inane things that they say to each other on chat sessions or through instant messenger services. Online chat has in part substituted for phone time. I would argue that one is not superior to the other.

    Wise.

  4. #4
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    Well I guess there's my answer!

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