Friday, March 13, 2009

Internet: Friend or Foe?

A brief editorial Coming of Age on the Internet by the Association for Psychological Science challenges the still-prevalent notion that the internet is more about isolation than connection. It looks back into the internet dark ages (read: mid to late 90s) to recall how initial studies on the phenomenon focused on how spending time online detracted from "real" relationships and sent our youth into cyber isolation.

Has our mindset changed 10-15 years later? Given that in the United States, online communication among young persons is pretty much universal (up to 97% according to Pew), researchers might have been forced into doing so, but are indeed looking more at the positives. According to the editorial, more recent research findings indicate that online networking is associated with greater happiness and well-being; surfing alone does not have such benefits, and may be related to some psychological risks. This finding isn't any different than face-to-face findings which show that socially connected people are happier.

Is this just evidence that the internet doesn't create problems, but is simply an example of how current human interactions work?


Jeff Valliant said...

I suppose it would depend on the intent of the user. Although not as pleasant as face-to-face encounters, the Internet, to me at least, helps to open up to others that might not be possible in a more personal setting. It could still be harmful to younger people if used improperly, ofcoarse. Perhaps the saying "Healthy Families require Healthy Communication", would aptly apply regarding how children approach the Internet.

Dr. Kris said...

I agree -- I think the internet helps connect people in so many ways. Yes, some of them can be harmful (as can F2F social connections), but more often than not social interaction is beneficial no matter how it is accomplished.

Jeff Valliant said...

You're right(as Doctors usually are!). As for meeting strangers, I'd rather meet F2F than over the internet, which kind of creeps me out. Perhaps I should've said that the internet is a more way convenient to discuss new issues with family and friends, especially over long distances.