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JonKatz posted more than 14 years ago | from the using-old-measures-to-define-a-new-world dept.

The Internet 343

A Stanford University study released Tuesdy found that the Net is causing Americans to spend less time with friends and family. The more time spent on the Net, says the study, the more isolated we are. Is this so? You don't have to be described by pundits, academics and journalists. You can speak for yourselves here:Update: 02/17 04:30 by H :Oh, check out the story about dogs and people on Wired today - it's hilarious.

The Stanford study, prepared by the university's Institute for the Quantitative Study of Society, found that 55% of Americans now have access to the Net. Of those, 36% said they were online at least five hours a week.

The study strongly challenged the assertions of Net advocates and enthusiasts (like me) who argue that the Net creates, communicates, promotes contact and is frequently used by people to connect, rather than disconnect with other humans.

According to Stanford researchers, Internet users are lonelier than other Americans, and are spending more time away from them. Interestingly (and, to me, dubiously), the survey defined loneliness in this way: whether you spend physical time with family and friends, whether you attend fewer social events, whether you spend less time reading newspapers and watching TV, shopping in stores, or are working more at home than before. In other words, the survey defines a radically new environment by nearly ancient measures of human contact.

The Stanford study didn't appear to consider e-mail or other virtual contact - gaming, communities, mailing lists, messaging systems, as contact with other humans. It suggested that the Net was invading the home with work and creating a pervasive new wave of social isolation.

Do online contacts - e-mail, communities like this, messaging systems, mailing lists - not count as connective, or as making contact with people? Are virtual friends friends? Is it more social to watch TV or read a paper than to be online, no matter what you do there?

I've met my closest friends online, and joined some of the most enduring communities of my adult life on the Net. From the first, I've seen it as a way for me to connect with other people, not get away from them.

But here's a chance to say for yourselves whether you consider the Net isolating or not, rather than to have studies or others describe that experience for you:

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Adults yes younger people no. (3)

slashdot-terminal (83882) | more than 14 years ago | (#1264994)

I watched the person who released the study and the leader of one of the major research groups on PBS (McNeil/Lehr Newshour).

They found that young people 16-22 were more likely to use the net socially and increase their social interaction and older people (read adults) were more likely to become isolated.

Generally this is because older people think in terms of mutually exclusive events.

Friends and family??? (1)

www.sorehands.com (142825) | more than 14 years ago | (#1264995)

Aren't friends and family people that you keep in contact through the net?

hmm... (1)

bdowne01 (30824) | more than 14 years ago | (#1264996)

I know that the internet has actually *improved* communication between my friends and I. We can talk more often (via email or a IM service) than we would like to before (long-distance). It may not be face-to-face, but is really THAT important?

huh? (1)

Snorp (63417) | more than 14 years ago | (#1264997)

I'm not sure about other slashdotters, but I spend a LOT of time online, and I'm not lonely (usually). In fact, most of the time when I'm online, I am sending messages to friends and family. How could this make me more isolated????


I talk with my family MORE now... (2)

DeRobeHer (76234) | more than 14 years ago | (#1264998)

My family lives about 3hrs away from me, so I don't get to see them often. Picking up a phone a dealing with long distance charges gets expensive. I talk with my family almost daily now, thanks to IM and email. We have more in depth conversations now than when I lived with them.
Donald Roeber

Of course! (1)

pb (1020) | more than 14 years ago | (#1264999)

Of course people you meet on the net are people. Yes, online friends are friends.

If I talk to you over the phone and tell you my life story, did we talk? What kind of stupid question is that? Why should e-mail be any different? I've known people who break up over e-mail. Does that mean they're still going out? Geez.

And the Wired article is hilarious! Also in the news: people who have been living for longer tend to die sooner! Oh my god! ;)
pb Reply or e-mail; don't vaguely moderate [] .

Reversing cause and effect (5)

Nonesuch (90847) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265000)

Perhaps the study is correct, but their results are backwards?

I would venture that while many people disagree with the statement "Using the internet makes you into a lonely person", many will agree with the statement "Lonely people are more likely to become Internet users".

Which is cause and which is effect?

My name is Jimhotep (1)

Jimhotep (29230) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265001)

My name is Jimhotep and I'm addicted to the "net"

there, I'm half cured!

that was too easy

There's only so many hours in the day (1)

SolaRJetmaN (77987) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265002)

Yawn. I cam sum up both these studies, and probably a thousand more on video games and television.

Whenever I do something, I don't do something else.

It's about opportunity cost. The hour I a day reading news pages, I could be talking to my family, studying, or doing half a billion things. But I don't want to. I want to rant on slashdot. Is that so frightening? The internet is an interesting place (and especially time-consuming if you're on a modem), and dogs take a large amount of attention and care. So you have to spend a few of your 24 allotted daily hours on them, if you're going to spend any at all. That's a few less hours you could spend doing other things. "Other things" include social interaction.

Big deal.

Internet made me more social due to my disability. (3)

antdude (79039) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265003)

Since I have articulation problems due to my physical disabilitites, it is hard to socialize in person. However, the chat BBS' and the boom of the Internet has changed my life. I am able to socialize and interact a lot more with people. What pisses me off is that people think I am an Internet addict. I use the Internet more than fun. I use it for work, socialize, news, etc.

This article is irrelevant to my situation. Anyone feel the same way?

Thank you in advance for replies. :)

Connection (3)

JonKatz (7654) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265004)

But on Senior Net on AOL, the elderly are pouring onto the Net. In fact, older Americans are statistically the fastest growing group of people on the Net and Web. They check in with grandkids, mail their own children, connect with one another. This study is wacky to me...older people are prime example of a group that uses the Net to connect with other people.

Lonely? (1)

carlos_benj (140796) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265005)

I don't know about lonely, but I know a lot of people who spend 'inordinate' amounts of time on the web that are increasingly uncomfortable when they have to interact in actual reality.

Of course, I'm not one of them (isn't that always how it goes?). I spend less time with family and friends because of a cross-country move a couple of years ago. I have no really close friends that I've met on the net. Those I consider close are my friends 'back home' and a few of the folks I've met since moving.

I think I do spend more time online than I used to, but I think that's more a function of having fewer friends in close proximity and, therefore fewer options available.


Who paid for this study? (2)

joshamania (32599) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265006)

I certainly hope my tax dollars did not get put towards a bunch of lunatics saying that I should rob Peter to pay Paul. God forbid that I should reduce the amount of time they (I) spend with family, friends and -- most of all -- the television. Hey everyone out there, you are too stupid to realize that spending 1 hour on the Internet per week reduces your capacity to watch television by 1 hour per week. You must read this Stanford study in order to really find out what a detriment that the Internet is having on your life. I definitely need to spend less time on the Internet now that I've read this article. Maybe I should get a dog...

Here's an interesting counterpoint to that (1)

FolkWolf (15127) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265007)

THis is an excerpt from David Weinberger's monthly zine. It's a paragraph in answer to his father in law, asking him why he spends at least 4 hours a day responding to email

So, my father-in-law asks why I do this. What do I
get out of it? Clearly, I get stimulation. And maybe
someday one of these email strangers will remember
me and recommend my work to a reclusive billionaire
who will make me the sole beneficiary of his will
(well, so long as I can manage to off his cat). But
those aren't the real reasons. The world is growing
a new nervous system. The neurons are striving to
connect. I sense a spiritual mandate so deep that it
feels biological. We must find one another, rapidly.
We must grip every hand that we see. This is the new
evolution. We are building a world that only we can
build. We are building the real web, the one that
uses technology for connection the way our souls use
our bodies. It is joyous.

i am not lonely (1)

XaSERaX (152964) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265008)

i have a house full of people who use my connection to talk to friends and relatives, we dont lose interaction, we gain it. it brings everyone together, sharing stories and setting up trips. however, i agree the already socially inept will use it more as they get their online girlfriends and boyfriends, who can not go out and talk to people. these people will become more engrossed with the online community, making the internet their only social interaction

This is, I think,a very important point (2)

JonKatz (7654) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265009)

Think of the ways in which people use the Net to connect:
kids to parents
kids to other kids
kids to grandparents
friends to friends
workers to colleagues
people with culture

Even business models like EBay and Deja.com require interaction between retailers and customer..e-mails, reviews, etc.
Everybody I know on the Net, at any age, connects with people online. I think the problem here is that the people doing this kind of study don't see this kind of contact as with humans.

What if I have both... (1)

kerskine (46804) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265010)

a big surfing habit, and a dog??? Am I doomed to hermitude??

Just wondering - Keith

meeting people online (2)

bartyboy (99076) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265011)

I've recently cut down the amount of time I spend using the computer at home. I was spending a couple of hours on IRC, answering e-mail and reading various sites.

Overall, it looked like social interaction. But in reality, I lost touch with many people which live close to me. Instead, I conversed with semi-strangers on the other side of the continent.

This being said, I met my best friend about six years ago on a BBS. But imho, BBSes offered much more social interaction than anything I found on the internet.

So now that I have a couple of free hours a night, I can spend it any way I want - take a nap, read a book, go to a movie with my friends or keep up with my old hobbies.

The hardest part was noticing that I traded my life for the computer.


Lonely Net Users (1)

jamesoutlaw (87295) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265012)

I saw this news item floating around a couple of days ago. The internet has changed my life over the past few years but I would not describe myself as lonely more lonlier than I was a few years ago. I watch very little television these days, probably less than 3 hours per week (which is a Good Thing). I get most of my news from the Internet, I stopped reading newspapers a couple of years ago and I never watch the local news broadcasts. I do catch local news from various radio programs that I listen to during the work day.
I still spend a lot of time with my friends, in fact we talk much more now than we dis a couple of years ago. It's just easier to communicate via e-mail than it is to try and get someone on the phone. As far as "face to face" contact, i still hang out with my friends every weekend- as much as we did in the "pre-internet" days.
I've also met some new friends, as I am sure that you all have, via the internet, some of whom live here in Memphis and have become "real" friends.
I think that some people are just not wanting to accept that the world is changing. I suspect that the lonliest internet users are the same folks that used to spend all of their free time holed up in their apartment watching television. Now they spend their free time holed up in their apartment surfing the internet. Not much of a change.

Use of the net (1)

Yaruar (125933) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265013)

I think the issue is what the groups use the net for

If it is as a primary method of communication then there could be social isolation occuring.

If it is used as I use it as an aid to communication and interaction then I would say that the net is actively increasing my social intereaction.

I think one of the biggest problems is that people see the net becoming a primary social interaction device rather than as a tool to enhance,rather than replace traditional communications.

Also it would be interesting to see the study to see how it defines online use and online interaction.

I would hypothesise that if you broke down the results into categories based around what people mainly use the net for then you would ge tmore interesting and more informative results.

Firstly I would say that people who primarily use e-mail would probably use it as a communication enhancer to catch up with people and arrange face to face meetings.

People who primarily surf or use IRC and talkers maybe the ones who are less inclined to use it for enhancing IRL experience.

Although it would be a less attention grabbing headline

'People shown to derive variable benefit depending on context of internet use...'

antisocial geek hermit phase (1)

matman (71405) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265014)

I personally believe the antisocial geek hermit phase something that teenagers go thru, and is just a phase. I remember articles in the newspaper about internet addiction - and I say, so what? it was a great lerning experience. It was also a good opportunity to be intraspective. Maybe in adults its longer lasting and more damaging, but for teens and young adults, a year or two long addiction to the net, and a drop in social activity may not be such a bad thing. :)

dogs are better than the internet :) (5)

tuffy (10202) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265015)

  • Dogs never require electricity, only a steady supply of food.
  • Dogs never require a reinstall. The first setup and they're good for life.
  • Dogs never require an upgrade (unless you want a BeoWOOF cluster of them).
  • Dogs are much softer than the internet.
  • Dogs are always the right temperature. They require no more cooling fans than you do.
  • Dogs never require overclocking. If they're not running at the right speed, simply work on the leash a bit more.
  • Dogs never need backing up. Their flash memory is good for life.
  • Dogs never need a password. Using newfangled biometrics, dogs will always know who you are.
  • Dogs will give you exercise. The internet will not.
  • Dogs are also much better to look at than the internet. The skin they have is good enough.
That's why I'd rather spend my day with a dog than on the internet ;)

Similar studies... (1)

goldenfield (64924) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265016)

Some people at Carnegie Mellon University are also investigating the social consequences of net usage ( check out the HomeNet project here [cmu.edu] ). They have also concluded that Internet usage leads to less interpersonal physical contact. They also observed that interpersonal communication is a stronger driver for internet usage than than entertainment or information searching.

Re:I talk with my family MORE now... (2)

Industrial Disease (16177) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265017)

<AOL>Me Too!</AOL>
I live about 10-12 hours from my parents. I usually call them about once a week, but IM with my Dad two or three times in between. It's also easy for him to e-mail me pictures (although I need to teach him about JPG compression), so I can actually see the new quilt my Mom has been working on. Mom got on IM for the first time last night, and seemed to enjoy it.

Re:Friends and family??? (1)

carlos_benj (140796) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265018)

"Aren't friends and family people that you keep in contact through the net?"

No, that's an old MCI Marketing strategy....


Phone is a great analogy (1)

JonKatz (7654) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265019)

The phone takes people away from f2f contact as well..does that not count as human interaction? And what about the time ON the phone, as pb suggests?

Re:Adults yes younger people no. (1)

zyqqh (137965) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265020)

Generally this is because older people think in terms of mutually exclusive events.

That's an utterly unfounded statement. "Mutually exclusive events"? Come on now,.give your parents credit for thinking rationally, at least. The real problem lies in the fact that the percentage of adults using real-time interaction tools on the 'net hasn't yet reached critical mass. The critical mass I speak of is that moment when there's just enough of your friends already doing it so that you want to do it yourself. Then positive feedback forms, and there's an exponential explosion.

The first age group, HS/college, to reach this critical mass with respect to real-time online communication hit it around summer of '97, when ICQ exploded into the millions. As the previous reply points out, we're now seeing a boom in the senior citizen population (I believe I've heard the following at least 2 times in the past week: "Oh my god, hell just froze over; I got an ICQ message from grandma"). My guess regarding the (unexpected, for me) fact that senior citizens got here faster than the middle-age population is that it's probably explainable by them having more time available to learn these technologies.

Jon Katz's Lonely Hearts Club thread (3)

348 (124012) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265021)

Jon Katz's Lonely Hearts Club thread

It was twenty threads ago today,
AC's began throwing flames his way
They've been flaming Jon and his style
But they're guaranteed to raise a smile.
So may I introduce to you
The flame you've known for all these years,
Jon Katz's Lonely Hearts Club thread.
We're Jon Katz's Lonely Hearts Club Band,
We hope you will enjoy the post,
We're Jon Katz's Lonely Hearts Club Band,
Sit back and let the AC's go.
Jon Katz's lonely, Jon Katz's lonely,
Jon Katz's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
It's wonderful to post here,
It's certainly a thrill.
You're such a zealot audience,
We'd like to mod you up with us,
We'd love to mod you up.
I don't really want to stop the trolls,
But I thought that you might like to know,
That the author's going to post a troll,
And he wants you all to post along.
So let me introduce to you
The one and only non-geek here
Jon Katz's Lonely Hearts Club thread.

define "interaction" (4)

Signal 11 (7608) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265022)

We're constantly scanning for new ideas on the web, e-mailing people, and interacting both in video games and in online forums like this one.

But let me guess, unless it's in meat-space, it doesn't count? The "older" generation(s) will always have a problem with the "younger" ones - saying "it wasn't that way when *I* was a kid". Well, duh. And it never will be again. That's part of the unique condition that is part of life. When we're 40 years old people on slashdot will harken back to the good old days when processors were made out of silicon and we had a vast "internet". The kids of that day will laugh at us because they weren't around to see it - they'll have optical processors that interconnect to everything, and fiberoptic will be everywhere. Nanotech will be building factories that improve themselves, and we'll still be working 60 hour work-weeks while government proclaims us "Happiest Times Ever!"

It's culture-shock, and these researchers need to recognize that. Sure, according to their calculus we ARE spending less time interacting with people. But we're replacing that by interacting with people ONLINE and their IDEAS instead. Wouldja rather we go out dancing every evening and have ice cream socials?

Study makes false assumptions (1)

FreshView (139455) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265023)

Forgive me for posting to the main thread as my post will echo many sentiments already expressed. However, I couldn't respond to everyone.

WOW! A short Katz piece. Seriously, this study definitely assumes that while we're on the net we're not communicating with friends and family. I think many of the sites I go to with active messageboard systems (such as this one), promote friendship. You get to know the people who come and post on the sites you go to. I've had someone from Slashdot contact me about a post I made for a story, and it was amazing, someone that I could have started a dialogue with (I didn't, but I could've).

As far as family? I live in Colorado, and most of my mother's side of the family lives on the east coast. I'm not good at letters, and phone calls get too expensive. I can stay in good contact with my entire family, using the 'net. So what if I spend 30 hours a week on it? much of that time is spent cultivating new friendships, and adding fuel to old ones.

The sense of community people feel here at Slashdot and at other, similar sites is unique to our age, and I think it should be held up as an example of how telecommunications was MEANT to work. This is what people talk about when they say Global Village (a few spammers and flamers aside).

What about the net? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1265024)

I find that I ignore the net more and more when I spend time with my family and my dog. How do you think the net feels about that. Doesn't the net have a heart too? Its a living breathing organism made up of millions of people struggling to get information out to me in the form of SPAM, chainletters, Warez, pr0n, or just to show me pictures of their little dog Chico. What about Chico? We need to balance our online family with our in the flesh family.

Hell... if it wasn't for the Internet I probably would never speak to my parents... email has saved that relationship. And they only live a half hour away.

Can't we all just get along?

Isn't it just replacing television!? (2)

Maul (83993) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265025)

How many hours do people spend watching Television a week? Certainly, 3 hours watching the tube is about as useless as 3 hours surfing the web. Now, I rarely watch TV nowadays, but I'm online a lot (not only to post on /., but I have to work online as well).

Isn't the web just replacing TV as Amercia's favorite time waster? Or are most poeople wasting time on BOTH now? ^_^

TV is evil anyway (1)

snorb (109422) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265026)

Anything that gets people to spend less time watching TV is a good thing. Check out this powerful anti-TV "essay" [sculptors.com] .

Busy people can actually BE social on-line (2)

bildstorm (129924) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265027)

I feel very sorry for a bunch of researcher who really don't understand what socialising is. Chatting with my friends online is very similar to chatting with them on the phone. I have travelled a lot, and have recently moved back to the US. If I were to rely on the telephone to talk to them, I'd go broke. If I sent mail by post, I would communicate less.

Then there's also the fact that I'm extremely busy. I have lots of work to do at my job. When people can e-mail me events instead of trying to get a hold of me on my busy phone, then I can schedule time to spend with them. I can plan my life and fit socialising in, without necessarily excluding work or other friends.

Yeah, I used to work with academians. Like people who hide in books and labs should tell us how real life functions.

Katz in the Pit (1)

Industrial Disease (16177) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265028)

Hey, Jon! Nice to see you down here in the trenches with the rest of us! Hopefully, getting more involved in the discussion forums will help your image problems here.

Explain my wedding ring, then! (3)

KaCee (142522) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265029)

If the 'net isolates people, then I must be a living anomaly. My ex-common-law husband (with whom I'm still a close friend) and I met on the 'net in 95. I just went all the way to marry my new love, whom I met online in 98. The first was in the same city, the second was in the US (I'm in Canada, but moving down there in a few weeks). Yes, my new hubby and I have met in person many many times and spent a lot of time together, but we first bonded as close friends online because we met in a newsgroup that interested us both.

So if the researchers are all worried that Internet communication lacks "warmth" and human closeness...well...ahem...let's just say my new hubby and I have proven that deliciously wrong. *grin*

The study is meaningless, IMHO. They took people without 'net connections and hooked them up, then asked them if they did other things less. Well duh. There are still only 24 hours in a day, and if you're spending time doing _anything_ more, you're doing the rest less. And plenty of studies show that, particularly with kids, what's being given up for 'net time is TV time (ie as cited in Growing Up Digital [growingupdigital.com] by Don Tapscott).

These studies only show a change in behaviour, and conclusions drawn from individual changes are spurious at best.

-- Kimberly "happy geek" Chapman

What a narrow view of contact. (2)

Dast (10275) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265030)

Being away at school, the internet is my primary means of staying in contact with friends and family who aren't attending my school. I can't afford $100+ phone bills, or try to visit everyone every weekend. It just isn't feasable.

I don't spend my time trying to meet a lot of new people online. I'm not into IRC, and just chatting with any random(joe). I prefer more private type instant messaging services like ICQ, (http://licq.wibble.net, licq is great) where I can require authorization for people to contact me. It keeps me in constant contact with anyone I choose. (And plus it isn't too hard for those not as interested in computers to use.) And then there is e-mail. Together they do a great job of keeping me in touch with people I wouldn't usually be in touch with.

Now for friends on campus, the internet is taken out of the equation, because the cost of staying in contact is far less.


Re:Reversing cause and effect (1)

Yardley (135408) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265031)

And then those lonely people will find more social interaction on the 'Net than they had in their lives before. I think it's a good thing. You can actually make friends in chat rooms and develop relationships this way.

I use the net mainly for news and information gathering, kind of like hanging out in a giant library with to-the-minute updates of magazines & newspapers, plus a reference section like you wouldn't believe. The other primary purpose is email to keep in touch and make arrangements with other people to go out, have meetings, get together, etc.

Of course, the entertainment on the 'Net isn't all that bad either.

Funny, that stuff about dogs. I haven't seen my dogs in over a month (they live at home with my parents), but I do have pictures of them up on the net. I found out in email from my dad that one of them's sick, so I'm going home this weekend where I'll have tons of social interaction (of the researcher-acceptable kind).

More comments on this... (1)

Ramses0 (63476) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265032)

This was posted a day or two ago at kuro5hin.org [kuro5hin.org] (corrosion). To see some other insightful comments on this topic (and the ability to moderate your own story submissions) take a look at it.

http://www.kuro5h in.org/?op=displaystory&sid=2000/2/16/95028/4003 [kuro5hin.org]


ditto (1)

R. Paul McCarty (3571) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265033)

I have a big loveable German Shephard who slobers all over me, drags me through the woods around our house 3 times a day and keeps me company. I think I get outdoors much more often because of him, but yes it sometimes reduces my interaction with other people because sometimes I have to leave early from an event, or pass on something because I have to take care of my dog.

But, to be honest my social interaction is the same now as it's always been. Probably less then most people but I don't find myself closing the world off and cocooning in my house because I have a dog and three cable networked machines running 24/7. I was as much an introvert at 17 as I am now. Nothing has changed because of dogs or the internet. :)


In a galaxy far far away.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1265034)

Luke: "You participated in troll day?"

Ben: "I was once a troll the same as your brother." Luke: "My brother didn't troll. He was a Linux zealot."

Ben: "That's what Signal 11 told you. He didn't hold with your brother's ideals. He thought he should post insipid brain-dead staus quo material. Not gotten involved."

Luke: "I wish I had known him."

Ben: "He was a cunning troller, and the best flamebaiter on the Internet. I understand you've become quite a troll yourself. And he was a good friend. For over 3 years the trolls made Slashdot worth reading. Before the dark times. Before the moderation"

Luke: "How did my brother die?"

Ben: "A young troller named CmdrTaco, who turned to evil, helped Rob Malda moderate Slashdot. He permanently banned your father's IP Address. Taco was seduced by the Dark Side of the Karma."

Luke: "The Karma?" Ben: "Yes, the Karma is what gives a Karma-Whore his power. It's an energy field created by repeating pro-Linux FUD. It surrounds us. Penetrates us. Binds Slashdot together. Which reminds me. Your brother wanted you to have this when you were old enough, but Signal 11 wouldn't allow it. He thought you'd follow Anonymous Coward on a FIRST POST."

Luke: "What is it?"

Ben: "It a bowl of hot grits. The weapon of a troll. Not as random or clumsy as a petrified Natalie Portman or a Scooby Doo. An elegant topic for a more trollish First Post."

In my opinion... (1)

MysticOne (142751) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265035)

Any study like this one will have inconclusive results. Just because you use the Inet more than "average" doesn't mean you don't enjoy good times with friends at the local bar or occasional Linux Expo. I personally meet people on the Inet, with my goal being to meet them in person if I like them. I can communicate my thoughts in the written word better than I can verbally (I still don't know why that is, though), so it's easier for me to meet and discuss with people on IRC, /., etc., instead of in person. Besides, how do they know that the majority of these people aren't anti-social in the first place? Rather than the Inet substituting for their real life meetings, it isn't even related, as they wouldn't have those meetings to begin with? Just my daily rambling ...

The good side to e-mail. (1)

kwsNI (133721) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265036)

It's not that important to me. E-mail has been one of the best things for my relationship with my girlfriend. Face-to-face communication and even telephone calls can be hard to make sometimes with our schedules. When I'm free, she's busy and vise versa.


Connect:Internet::Disconnect:People? (1)

Grasshopper (153602) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265037)

I believe that truth can be found in both perspectives.

On one hand, the Internet has drawn such an interest that there is an abundance of people to interact with online, and in many ways this had lead people to interact with people much more then ever before. These people marrying someone they met online obviously feel a real connection with that person, so while the Internet may seem "impersonal" to some, it obviously isn't to others.

On the other hand, I do think it is true that the Internet is causing people to be less social on a more personal level. For many, this may not be so, but I would wager that most people still value qualities that the Internet cannot offer. As communication has improved, the direct connection between the people communicating has lessend, historically. Wouldn't you consider a hand-written letter more personal than a typed one? How about an email? Wouldn't all of these pale in comparison with "live" communication?

Still, there are many situations that are vastly improved by the different levels of abstraction offered through the Internet. Some people are far more open online than in person. Does this mean that the Internet is causing people to feel socially inadequate? I tend to think it simply gives people with less confidence a chance to speak and be heard. That can't be so bad, can it?

life, computers and family (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1265038)

this statement may turn out to be more of a rant, and if so, i'm sorry, though i'm (hopefully) not the only person who's like this.

I for one used to be a very sociable person (still a computer geek, but sociable none the less). Granted, i would spend a great deal of time online, or whathaveyou, but myself and my friends would go out to clubs, parties, movies, whatever...

...then i got married. My wife is not nearly half as sociable as i, so what do i do, i turn to my computer. She gets pissed if i choose to go out somewhere with out her, but if i do ask her to come along, she'll say she dosen't want to go, and to go ahead and do my thing....so basically our relationship will result in us arguing and fighting. So i'll stay home, and sit in front of my computer growing fat and lazy, while she sits around and watches TV. However if it wasn't for the net, i would have so little human contact i would be pathetic (more so than it already is)...

This sucks, never mind...flame away

This could be good, actually... (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1265039)

Consider this: If all the baby-boomers go online, get lonely, and kill themselves, we won't have to deal wit funding their Social Security in 20 years!

It's a win-win situation!

Oh my god! (1)

Glytch (4881) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265040)

This is amazing! Did you know that when you do something, you're not doing something else?!?! Whoa! I mean, I was always under the impression that people just created time out of thin air! This study just floors me! Wow. Maybe I should get back to drinking in a bar somewhere, rather than working on my class assignments for Intro to AI. Clueless drips.

Re:Who paid for this study? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1265041)

Yeah, but if you read the study then you're not spending that time doing things you're suppose to do, like socializing.

What if you don't want to socialize? Or is that a subversive idea?

Silly study (1)

BBB (90611) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265042)

Many studies are silly but this one is particularly so. Check out this commentary [nationalreview.com] on that study. Note that the article at that link will be archived by Saturday 2/19, but the archive is accessible from that location as well.


Duh. (2)

WhiskeyJack (126722) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265043)

The more time you spend on the Net, the less time you spend with friends.

The more time you spend reading, the less time you spend with friends.

The more time you spend on contemplative walks in the woods, the less time you spend with friends.

Simply put, we have a finite amount of time to work with, and any time we choose a solitary activity, we also choose a more "lonely" life (Something I think anyone with a modicum of intelligence would grasp immediately). This is not a bad thing -- solitude is something I value far more than social contact, and if I didn't spend time on the net, I'd be spending time curled up with a good book or out back in the smithy (alone) pounding iron or taking a leisurely hike up Acadia Mountain (again alone).

Why does anyone make a big deal out of this? Some people choose to be less social than others, and our activities reflect that. Time spent on the net is just another such activity...and I balance that time with my other interests, just like everyone else.

-- WhiskeyJack

File Under: Just another study (1)

Sway (153291) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265044)

I heard this story on NPR's Morning Edition (here's the story in RealAudio [npr.org] ) today and they were interviewing someone on details of the finding. Evidently the people who were in charge of the study found the 4,000 participants through the usual channels of random phone calls and such....BUT, because the firm prefers to do their studies electronically, they make sure that every one of their participants was hooked up online by setting up all non-users. I wonder if any of the 36% that said they were online over 5 hours a week were spending time filling out the survey for this study?

The study also showed that online time took away mostly from TV time, next came newspaper time, and then came time spent on the phone with friends or time spent with family. I would say that much of what I've found online is more interesting and perhaps better for me that what I could watch on TV. I get my news online so there's a good reason why I would spend less time with the newspaper. And I send out far more e-mails with arguably better content than phone calls. I think the Internet is what's kept me in touch with many friends. If you spend time online that you should be spending with your family...that's your decision. It probably points to something deeper than being fascinated with Ask Jeeves.

Also, one of the most significant findings of this study was that the longer a person owned a computer, the more likely they were to use it. Duh! Although I guess that would be somewhat of an anomoly since I barely even touch my George Foreman grill anymore.

I think I'm just going to have to call this "Just another study" and move on with my life. After all, every precious second I'm spending typing this I could be out galavanting with friends (who would all be at work anyways).

Peace. Sway
icq 5202646
Peace. Sway

Quality vs. Quantity (1)

pdubroy (151955) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265045)

I believe it is important to make the distinction between quantitiy of communication and quality of communication. The issue is not whether or not we communicate more on the net, but whether we communicate better. Let me explain what I mean.

I believe that without question, the rise of the internet has given people an ability to communicate more often, and with less work. Compare letter writing of decades ago with the email that most of us exchange with friends. A letter would take weeks to turn around, while an email can take minutes.

But is more communication desirable? I'm not sure it is. I believe that the more we substitute things like ICQ and email for face-to-face contact, the more we dilute the message. To give an example, I have a couple of friends who are in Europe, while I am in Canada. I think it is much more meaningful and fulfilling to send them a long and well thought out letter once a year than it is to exchange typical and mundane pleasantries on ICQ every night. In fact, I would rather not talk to the person than have a typical ICQ exchange.

"Hey, what's up?"
"Not much, you?"
"Not much. Got an essay due tomorrow."
"That sucks."
"So what's up?"

So I believe that the net is making us more isolated. We are communicating more than ever before, but never has the message been more insignificant. IRC and ICQ promote sound-bite communication. Email has in many cases become a crutch, or more accurately a shield, for docile and cowardly people. It is not hard to see why there are so many flames. Yet I defy you to find a handful of people who would actually defend their opinions in person.

And an on-topic question, does anybody know what McLuhan thinks of the new media? I would be very interested to know.


One small favor... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1265046)

Hey CmdrTaco and/or Hemos - could you bitch-slap Jon Katz for me? Thanks in advance...

Yours truly.

You all are in denial (2)

fprintf (82740) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265047)

You all are like addicts. Thinking up all the excuses of why you are not an addict, and someone else is.

I will make the first move:

"I am an internet addict. It started out innocently enough. I took my first download back in 1986 from a Clarkson computer center machine. But after that first taste, I couldn't help myself. I bought a 1200 baud modem, but that wasn't enough. I mortgaged my VW to buy a 3600 baud modem, and my dog then left me. I really started going downhill fast in 1994 on a Windows 3.1 machine running Super TCP/IP, when the company that I work for installed a T1 line. Since then I have become more and more addicted, spending hours reading technology web sites, catching up with friends via email, and improving my job skills. I am so ashamed of myself that I have come to Web Addicts Anonymous (WAA!) for your support and help.

It just looks bad to extroverts (5)

object.orient() (150871) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265048)

Long time reader, first time poster, but when I saw,
But here's a chance to say for yourselves whether you consider the Net isolating or not, rather than to have studies or others describe that experience for you,
I had to respond.

It occurs to me that the people doing these studies have to be extroverts. (Extroverts are people who seem to gain energy from being around other people; introverts are people who gain energy from doing things -- including just resting -- without other people around. See http://keirsey.com/pumII/ei.html [keirsey.com] for more.)

This study is blatant in its disregard for introverts like me. Being around other people is often a physically and psychologically draining experience for me. This is because, for whatever reason, spontaneous conversation does not come easily. I find myself searching for a topic or something interesting to say. When I finally find something, the moment has passed, or (worse yet) I have to then edit it to make sure it doesn't sound self-absorbed and that I have formatted it correctly so that it is really understandable. This makes it very difficult to "mingle" at a party, and I end up having that "alone in a crowded room" feeling.

When I write something, however, the words flow more easily because I know that I can and will go back and edit later, before sending/publishing.

Because of this, the 'net has been an indispensible tool in my attempt to communicate and do so effectively. If I had to conduct all business conversation in person or on the phone I would be much less effective than I am using email.

The same is true for certain personal communications. Live, real-time conversation is difficult and draining. Therefore, I'm not as likely to do it. By using email to contact friends, I'm much more likely to actually stay in touch. Since email is so much quicker than the post, real conversations can happen without taking weeks to finish.

So, while the extroverts may look at folks using the internet and say, "Argh! They have no human contact," the introverts look at them and say, "Hey! They're finally able to talk to people."

Katz Infestation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1265049)

Dear god, someone get an exterminator. Slashdot in completely infested with Katz.

I've got to say, most of you all are pathetic. Katz is still the same illiterate, non-techie hanger-on, springboarding himself to success on your backs that he's always been, but he writes one article that panders to you and deigns to finally contirubte to the forums, and you're ready to give a big, wet, sloppy in the bus bathroom.

Re:Connect:Internet::Disconnect:People? (2)

Industrial Disease (16177) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265050)

I tend to think it simply gives people with less confidence a chance to speak and be heard.
This is one of the main reasons I started a weblog. I've never been very social, and have always have had difficulty expressing myself. One of my main motivations for weblogging is to get into the habit of writing something for an audience (probably very small; I don't collect hit data) every day.

Related story (0)

bubbasatan (99237) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265051)

Dissociated Press - Dateline February 17, 2000. A study released today by the National Organization of Lettuce Investigation and Forensic Examination (NOLIFE) revealed a shocking connection between lettuce consumption and time spent with families. The study, which has been fully endorsed by both the ASPCA and PETA as not harmful to Alaskan sea horses, concluded that people who eat lettuce tend to spend more time with their families than surfing the net, watching tv, exercising, etc. Not surprisingly, family members who did not consume lettuce, that is, they didn't take the time to eat their salads, spent up to 30% less time at the table than their herbivorous relatives. This news, which comes as a stunning and bold response to the recent studies which claim that dogs and the internet are bad for friends and families, promises to bind Americans together at entirely new levels. The Lettuce Enthusiastists of America Foundation (LEAF) has expressed its complete support for the study and promises to launch a multimillion dollar ad campaign promoting their leafy vegetable friend. Unfortunately, some parties have expressed concern with the commercials, stating that time spent watching them on TV will take away from the family regained by eating lettuce in the first place. What the future of family relations will be after this startling salad toss study is uncertain. As for this reporter, I'll take a side of crutons with my family.

Jose Ensalada
1000 Island Boulevard
Caesar, Italy

Is it really socializing? (1)

Ummon (15714) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265052)

Can you really call any indirect form of communication socializing?

I don't care how many chat rooms you hang out in or how many people you've meet via ICQ. If the person can't reach out and touch/hug/grab/punch the other participant during the conversation, it's indirect. And being indirect you can't be picking all the cues a person gives off that really define social interaction. So how can you call it socializing?

It's very disturbing that people can substitute an internet chat room for human contact. This is why a great many people feel that this technology is dehumanizing. People fall out of practice being people when they never see another person.

Re:dogs are better than the internet :) (1)

TheTomcat (53158) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265053)

The internet, OTOH, doesn't leave large puddles of drool everywhere during the summer. Also, I've never had the internet chew my new Oakleys..

Poll (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1265054)

Moderators: This is a poll:

  • If you fantasize about sucking a man's dick, moderate this post DOWN
  • If you fantasize about having sex with women, moderate this post UP
  • If you impotent due to a freak accident or excessive masturbation, do not moderate this post.

Thanks! Results will be published the American Journal of Moderators (AJM).

Depends on the person. (2)

etymxris (121288) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265055)

God knows I don't have a social life. But then again, I've never found the idea of getting wasted on a weekend night appealing. I've also found that most people are simply so different from me that it is just not enjoyable to hang out with them. I don't spend time with my family since its so dysfunctional. So I guess I'm a loner.

But without the net, it would be much worse. I simply wouldn't be in touch with anyone. The net doesn't replace what I would have otherwise been doing, it creates something for me to do. I know this because at various points in my life without a computer, I would spend too much time watching TV or playing video games or what have you.

The study was done wrong. Those more likely to use the net are also more likely to be lonely in the first place. The study says that people who spend more time on line spend less time with friends. The reverse is what they really discovered. Those who spend more time with friends spend less time on the computer.

Re:Isn't it just replacing television!? (2)

vitaflo (20507) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265056)

How many hours do people spend watching Television a week?

The difference here is that watching TV can be a shared experience which encourages human to human interaction. How many times have you snuggled up w/ your loved one to watch a movie? Now, how many times have you snuggled up w/ your loved one to surf Slashdot?

The problem becomes that surfing the net is a personal thing only. And it can hamper relationships. It's happened to me many times, since I'm on the web 10+ hours per day (since it's my job and all). I have stepped on a few women's toes because of it and had other joke that my computer was my "real" girlfriend.

For those of us like myself who think with a one track mind (if, then, else) the web can really suck you in if your not careful and ruin a lot of "real world" interaction.

I have net friends whom I've never physically seen (2)

root (1428) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265057)

I don't even know what they look like, and in some cases if they're even male or female. Does any of this mean that they're not real friends? For all I know, one of them could be an AI program that passes the Turing test.

Does it matter?

I enjoy talking to them and they with me. We have lots of fun together on the net. These are people I never would've met in person as they are scattered about the globe, while I hate the hassle of airports and rental cars and travel.

Let's turn the question around: Are internet-phobic people with only local friends "isolated" because all their friends are from the same area, think alike, live alike, work together, etc., and therefore don't bring up any new points of view or help expand one's mind by exposing one another to radically different cultures and ideas? Having only local friends thus limits your world view. Now who is really isolated? I wonder.

Re:hmm... (2)

Skyshadow (508) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265058)

> It may not be face-to-face, but is really THAT important?

Well, yes.

There is something that face-to-face interaction provides that email just doesn't. I suspect that a majority of the /. crowd will miss this because they tend to be more introverted than the average population (actually, I'd bet my lunch that the average /. poster is a INTJ on Meyers/Briggs). I know people whose idea of social gatherings is to get a party together in Everquest or meet someone on a MUD. You might argue that this techically qualifies as social interaction (it does), but it's also really sad. Also, it might fit the technical definition of social interaction, but not the spirit in which the author meant it.

Sitting behind your computer and firing off the occassional IM while mudding is not a healthy way to live.

Setting aside the "I met my wife online" case studies which /. will no doubt be flooded with, you've got to realize that spending more than a hour or two per day on the net will generally be destructive to your social life. Email doesn't let you bond with other people. You might have interesting conversations, but you'll never have social experience unless you get off your ass and out of the house.


Re:Reversing cause and effect (3)

LLatson (24205) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265059)

This is an excellent point. It seems that maybe the researchers have fallen into a statistical trap.

Repeat after me:
Correlation does not imply causation.


Technology Fears (1)

Psion (2244) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265060)

I am annoyed with the bias these researchers have applied to their study. To consider in-person communication to be the only valid way one can interact with others says more about the people behind the study than the ones behind our keyboards.

I met my wife through the Internet several years ago. I have regular contact with my ordinary friends using IRC-type software. And I've had contact and made friends with people around the world thanks to the Internet -- people I never would have met otherwise.

Does engaging someone in a lengthy telephone conversation constitute interaction? If so, then what is the difference between sitting there with a handset pressed to the side of your face, and sitting at a computer with your fingers on the keyboard...or even using an Internet phone?

Ultimately, junk studies like this might serve an educational purpose: to remind people that something labelled a study does not necessarily constitute an irrefutable fact. That a study can have biases to support the agenda of the people behind them or the people who pay for them. That a single study means absolutely nothing until it is confirmed by independent researchers in an effort to duplicate the findings while eliminating confounding factors.

Re:Lonely? (1)

mwittenstein (120813) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265061)

I don't know about lonely, but I know a lot of people who spend 'inordinate' amounts of time on the web that are increasingly uncomfortable when they have to interact in actual reality.

I think this may be a chicken and the egg issue. Is using the net making these people more uncomfortable around other people, or is their discomfort around other people driving them towards using the net? I have more than a few friends who are socially inept to an extreme when confronted with a real life situation, but are incredbily articulate online. Most of them have been introverted all their lives. The net has given them an outlet they didn't have before. You may very well know people for whom the net has hurt their social skills. I think, perhaps, it depends more on the individual in question then the internet itself.

Good news for women though (2)

cs987 (153806) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265062)

Other surveys have indicated a 59% increase in the number of men that look like Brad Pitt..

Re:Internet made me more social due to my disabili (2)

JackiePatti (115651) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265063)

When I first got online many years ago (BBS's, not the net), I discovered that there was this huge proportion of deaf people online. It was actually pretty c00l - though when they came to real-time gatherings, most of the rest of us couldn't talk to them directly, but online, no interpreters were needed.

Such intense sucking crap (1)

Esperandi (87863) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265064)

If I'm ICQing an aunt 50 miles away, one of my best friends 300 miles away, meeting new people thousands of miles away, I AM NOT BEING ISOLATED! You lovers of breathing the recycled air of mouth-breather, sharing the smell of flatulence and the ability to out-shout your opponent in an argument can go screw yourselves. There is very, very little benefit to face to face communication, ESPECIALLY in family situations. Nothing prevents you from being as expresive and sincere online besides the inability of most people to conceive of the medium (al the simple stuff adds up like no caps lock, use correct grammar when possible, etc).

And, to close, I'd like to say that houses isolate people more than the net. Before we had houses we had to sleep on our neighbors while they screwed! Now THAT was human closeness!

You all living in houses are antisocial hermits! You're probably going to shoot your classmates or something....

Urgh, I need a beer.


Introversion vs. Shyness (1)

Ummon (15714) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265065)

You seem to have shyness confused with introversion.

Being an INTP [keirsey.com] I know what I am talking about. Being introverted basically means you have a preference for internal rather than external stimulus. Being shy means you feel uncomfortable around people you don't know well. You can usually overcome shyness, but you will almost always stay an introvert.

Bah, humbug. (1)

Change (101897) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265066)

I use my various net connections to keep in touch with friends during the day and plan social gatherings such as lunches, dinner plans, movie plans, and soforth. Without this connectivity to friends, I'd be at work, bouncing phone calls off of 5 or more people, trying to get lunch plans organized.
And because we don't watch TV that makes us lonely? The only times I resort to the mindless drivel that is TV today is when everyone's out of town and there's nothing to do...

Re:dogs are better than the internet :) (1)

Petethelate (96300) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265067)

I used to hear that people had dogs so they'd meet more people.
Around here, it's more like we know the dogs better than the owners. I'm on speaking terms with several dogs on the block (they bark at me until I call their names, then they shut up), but only a couple of neighbors. A little weird, but this is California. :-)
BTW, my dogs have a better collection of sweaters than I do. OTOH, they need to preserve heat, and I don't....

Re:dogs are better than the internet :) (1)

Esperandi (87863) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265068)

Dog's don't provide porn.
Dog's don't provide porn.
Dog's don't provide porn.
Dog's don't provide porn.

Enough said.


Meaningless Statistics (2)

jd (1658) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265069)

I don't know why people bother with this. First off, this is a measure of =quantity=, NOT =quality=. If people spent 5 hours/day less together, and those were the 5 hours they would have spent arguing or fighting, you've massively INCREASED the quality of the time they DO spend together, AND INCREASED their closeness.

People bicker and argue when they feel hemmed in. When they don't have those walls around them, there is a chance that they'll actually be a lot more pleasent to be around, and also that they will get more out of the interaction.

Personally, I'm going to wait until someone bothers to do a study on the stuff that matters, rather than on the numbers which don't.

Introversion vs. Social Anxiety Disorder (4)

Skyshadow (508) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265070)

There is a point where introversion crosses over to social anxiety disorder. It's an unreasonable fear of social situations (you've probably seen some drug company's commercials about the subject).

Now, I'll admit that I'm a bit of an introvert. I feel, however, that my previous overuse of the computer/net has pushed me farther and farther towards an unhealthy level of introversion.

IMHO, moderation is important when discussing personality traits. You don't want to be too much of an introvert nor a sociopathic extrovert; it's far better to be just mildly in one or the other camp.

Like I've mentioned in another post in this thread, I know people for whom the net defines their social life -- talking with people on Everquest or a MUD is the only form of social interaction they get. I can't see how that could possibly be healthy -- it leads to a loss of basic social skills and tends to be accompanied by a lack of exercise and (sometimes extreme) weight gain. Some /.'ers might see themselves in this and/or might think that this is an okay way to live if you want to, but I can't imagine that shutting yourself off from society is the road to mental health.

Granted, I'm citing extreme examples here. It can be seen, however, in more mild cases in one form or another.

Let me wrap up by suggesting that people use the net to avoid person-to-person interaction. You can argue that emailing someone is just like talking to them at dinner, but it's a pale substitute. Net-based interactions are not just "safe", but they allow you to reduce the person you're interacting with to just an object, an abstraction.

There must be more to life than that.


Pfft. (1)

Black Jack Hyde (2374) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265071)

Ah, of course. Instead of being logged in, I could be out in the world, being actively ignored by other humans. Yeah, that's a great substitute for the web and all the connections I've made with intelligent, literate people on a variety of interests.

To think, the money I spend on my ISP could be money spent in a bar while listening to my RL friends drone on about work and bad relationships, all the while inhaling second-hand smoke and toxifying my liver!

I spend a lot of time in Real Life, and except for being a parent the rest of it is highly overrated. Unless you're much more fortunate than I am, daily life is tedious, the diversions are way too few and very far between. Responsibilities, for I'm a responsible Jack, don't allow for the sort of life-enriching experience I'm guessing the researchers at Stanford think we should have. There's no time for it.

And please, no argument about 'you'd have time if you weren't online.' As my online time is carved out of my work day, that isn't the case for me. Batch processes run, and Jack can slip into /. and it's ok because otherwise I'd be staring at a blank monitor. Kind of hard to work a trip to the Cote d'Azur into an eight hour day and be back in time to make dinner for the little one.

If that necessary RL interaction could be with my online friends, that would be great! But the Net is going to have to be a substitute for that.


steps for Slashdot Addiction (2)

348 (124012) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265072)

The 12 suggested steps for Slashdot Addiction

We admitted we were powerless over Slashdot--that our lives had become unmanageable.

Came to believe that Karma greater than ours could restore us to sanity.

Made a decision to turn our will and our posts over to the care of Taco as we understood Him.

Made a searching and fearless moderation of our threads.

Admitted to AC, to ourselves and to the other 500, 000 Slashdotters the exact nature of our flames.

Were entirely ready to have Hemos remove all these negative karma hits.

Humbly asked Roblimo to remove all moderation.

Made a list of all persons we had flamed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

Made amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure the karma rating.

Continued to take other posters inventory and when we were wrong promptly denied it.

Sought through trolls and flamebait to improve our off-topic contact with Slashdot, as we understood it, posting only for knowledge of nerd news and the stuff that matters.

Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to Slashdotters, and to practice these principles in all our posts.

Flawed argument. :) (2)

Dast (10275) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265073)

While I'm certain you must be joking, I still can't help but respond.

Your argument doesn't exactly hold up. It is ilogical to say someone is something simply because they deny it.

If I were to call you a VB programmer, you might deny it and respond with reasons you are not. However, that in no way implies that you are a VB programmer who hasn't come out of the closet. You might be, but you might not be--the truth can't be determined from the fact you deny it.

Or maybe I'm just an addict making more denials. ;)

So what should we do differently? (1)

ATKeiper (141486) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265074)

These professors and other Luddites see spending time in front of a computer instead of sipping tea with neighbors as dangerous to both personal well-being and to civil society. They are wrong on both counts.

The word lonely has two definitions. One corresponds roughly with the definition used in this study - physical solitude. While it is not difficult to imagine many Netizens as lonely in this sense, I really can't think of regular Net users who fit the second, more important definition: "Dejected by the awareness of being alone." (Definitions from the AH3 [dictionary.com] .) The Internet does have interesting implications for personal psychology - as recent discussions about Internet addiction have shown - but by far, its ability to keep people connected and involved with other people outweighs this dubious loss of physical interaction. What's more, for people condemned to physical solitude by old age, ailing health or other conditions, the Internet can be a lifeline that lets them interact with more freedom than ever before.

What about the professors' other fear - that the Internet will alter our civil society beyond repair? Perhaps they fear we will all become soulless hermits, surrounded by our machines and isolated from other people, like in Asimov's Naked Sun [amazon.com] . But is our civil order really threatened by something we choose to do, on our own, because it pleases us? The end of feudal communities, the flight to suburbia, the break-up of the nuclear family - these were all social trends which resulted in people farther apart from one another physically. Only because this latest trend - our ability to contact others anywhere, anytime, without leaving one location - involves technology are the Cassandras clucking. The important thing to remember is that, to the extent increasing Web use is a trend at all, it is caused by millions of individual people deciding for themselves what they want to do; that makes it a pleasant and unprecedented expression of our freedom.

And this leads to my final point: What do these professors think we need to change? Who do they think should make the decisions for us? Should a panel of professors make rules saying, "People should spend no more than X hours online each day"? Any time a new study comes out claiming to descry some evil trend technology encourages, we should eye it suspiciously. More often than not, such studies have sinister implications for our freedom to pursue happiness as we wish.

A. Keiper [mailto]
The Center for the Study of Technology and Society [tecsoc.org]

Re:Connection (1)

Esperandi (87863) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265075)

Ahhh, but you're making the mistake of thinking that anything done on the Internet is real. You see, the luddites that continually expel the kind of repulsive filth that this study represents are the same people who burned the inventors of the past at the stake. They believe that if I talk to you for 8 hours straight via a chat program, we cannot communicate any information to one another. If I smell your bad breath and belch in your face then scream louder than you so you can't talk, we would be holding a *DIVINE* conversation and be happily on our way to solving world hunger.

Yes, the elderly are pouring onto the net. Which proves their point in their eyes - the elderly are isolating themselves. They're talking to unreal people over an unreal network and everyone is lying to them. If they'd only walk the streets at night instead, maybe they'd get to meet a nice mugger and get killed, that's the kind of thing that rampant "socialism" (not the Marxist theory, the anti-anti-social kind) leads to..

I'm staying inside today, and tomorrow, and hopefully every day after that. I wish.

Re:The good side to e-mail. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1265076)

It's not that important to me. E-mail has been one of the best things for my relationship with my girlfriend. Face-to-face communication and even telephone calls can be hard to make sometimes with our schedules. When I'm free, she's busy and vise versa.

Yeah, but you're talking about using the net to enhance communications -- you use it when contact wouldn't be possible otherwise. What you need to realize it that there are a lot of people who use it as a substitute; they're online instead of talking to people face to face.

Like all tools, the devil with the net is in the way it's used.

introverts need friends too... (2)

JackiePatti (115651) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265077)

I don't deal with social groups well in person. I am fine with small interactions, 2 or 3 people, and I can do public speaking and/or teaching, but it's really not my thang to be real outgoing in meat life. What I do know how to do is stuff I specifically learned to do and isn't the most comfortable thing in the world, as I'm basically a very introverted person.

LOTS of people, geeks or not, are very introverted people. Being online is a way to begin interacting with other people in an "introverted" way. Cause hey, you're at home alone focused on this machine in front of you, so you can take the time to explore internal landscapes before responding in a way that you can't do face-to-face.

Myself... there were several major advantages to online interaction beyond the fact that I got to connect in my prefered introverted mode. First off, in my very first chat I found several other Heinlein fans - more than I'd met offline in my entire life. Online was a place where I could sort by similar itnerests much more eaisly than real life, particularly for eclectic and unusual interests.

Secondly, online I could have a public conversaiton with a group and multiple private conversations simultaneously. You can't do this offline. Even sitting in the same physical room with the same people isn't as good, because you can't participate in many threads at once offline.

Third, while I can't type as fast as I can think, I can type a LOT faster than I can talk. Online communciation allows me to increase the quantity of my communicaiton tremendously.

Connecting with people online *IS* connecting with people. As many folks do, I have many acquaintances, but only a handful of very close friends. Of my 4 most intimate relationships, 3 of them I originally met online - 9, 7 and 3 years ago, respectively. Only one was originally met in meat life, and that was through one of my online friends who worked at the same company as him.

Re:Jon Katz's Lonely Hearts Club thread (1)

Bad Mojo (12210) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265078)

Bravo! Bravo!

I suggest we all take a lesson from this post and emulate it in all of our posts!

Bad Mojo

UNIX is better than dogs (1)

georgeha (43752) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265079)

  • If you kill a child process in UNIX, you're an SA. Kill a child process with a dog, and you're in jail.
  • Dogs take years of practice to do a successful find, UNIX has it built in.
  • UNIX processes listen when you do nice, not all dogs listen to nice.
  • UNIX with shadow passwords and tough passwords are hard to crack, dogs just require a biscuit to crack.
  • UNIX works well with cat, dogs chase the cat.
  • Your neighbors won't care if you have five UNIXen in a room, they will complain about five dogs.


Re:This is, I think,a very important point (1)

niagaracyber (111841) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265080)

Think of the ways in which people use the Net to connect:
kids to parents ....

There've been published observations, and I've seen this with my own family and by others' anecdotes, that today's geographically-dispersed families are more closely connected by the net and email than they have been when limited to long-distance phone calls, postal mail and infrequent visits.

In this case, the fact that other forces separate family members can be mis-attributed to our being "less" connected to them the more we're on the net.

Another variation of this "selection error" can be seen if you can accept for argument's sake that people with LESS need for face-to-face contact on less important levels are more likely to be the early adopters of online technologies.

Wouldn't people living far from relatives, and people with less need for close interactions be more lonely without technologies which make communications more convenient and less expensive?

With a few exceptions (e.g., addictive personalities), I'd suggest that the glass is half-full, at least.


questionable (3)

jetson123 (13128) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265081)

It's dangerous to draw conclusions about scientific studies from press releases or news articles. However, there are some general points to keep in mind. Furthermore, Nie, the director of the institute where the study took place, seems to make some pretty definitive statements about it that pretty clearly indicate his interpretation, an interpretation I find questionable.

First, the most glaring one is the inclusion of television viewing. Television is probably the most intellectually worthless, un-social and passive activity one can engage in (that isn't to say one should never watch television; after all, the occasional ice cream is great fun even if it is nutritionally worthless, but too much ice cream leads to obesity). Just about any Internet activity is more social, more interactive, and more stimulating. There is good reason to believe that the Internet primarily displaces television viewing time, and that's altogether the best thing that can happen.

The Internet also displaces traditional newspaper reading. Good: newspapers have had a hold on the information business far too long. The Internet offers more variety of information and more ability for dialog than traditional newspapers.

Another issue, of course, is that the study does not appear to take into account social interactions over the Internet.

Even if the study had found that there is a negative correlation between time spent on personal social interaction and time spent on the Internet, that doesn't imply a causal relationship.

I think a study like this needs to be carried out with great caution and without bias. From what has been reported, the study does not appear to support the conclusions attributed to it. And based on its likening of non-social activities like television viewing and newspaper reading in the category of "social interaction", it seems like the authors of the study had definite biases.

The study basically just seems to be saying that the Internet is taking away time from the things that people used to do. Well, big surprise. If you spend a few hours on the Internet per day, that's bound to happen. As long as it's television and newspaper time, I think that's hardly a loss. And it seems pretty likely that the Internet causes people to read and write more than in the past, as well as exposing them to new ideas. And that's a big win from my point of view.

Honestly...it's about 50/50... (1)

way2slo (151122) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265082)

I do not belive it really matters how we spend our personal time. I'm a net junkie, and have been since I was in college in '94. To be honest with this issue, I'd say that I spend about half my time reading & writing e-mail, ICQ chatting, and playing internet games with my friends or family. The other half I spend downloading files or playing non-internet games.

I cannot possibly imaginge how I could keep up with all my friends if it was not for the internet. In fact, I can't remember how I kept up with them before....probably the phone. I have a bunch of friendships that would be dead if they were not on e-mail life support. You know, all either of you do is send jokes back and forth to each other and occasionally attach a titbit of personal info.

The internet helps keep me rounded. I know some people that try to keep busy all the time. If a night comes along that they can't find anyone to go out with they have a breakdown. That's obviously not healthy. With the net, I can be with whoever I want and put the others off until later and they're not offended by it. Sometimes I just don't feel like replying to my mother's e-mail right away so I'll let it sit in the inbox. Did I mention how cool the internet is? :)

The time I spend downloading files and playing non-internet game is just personal time. Time I spend with just myself, which I find to be very relaxing and very much needed from time to time. Kind of like a de-stressing session. What is the difference between personal time spend on a computer, or playing with a dog, reading a book, or whatever floats your boat? Nothing. Why we choose to do what we do in our personal time is part of what defines who we are. I have no problem with these differences, but I suppose that some people will not be happy until we are all borg-like barbie clones.

More to do with the definition of "Addict" (5)

philg (8939) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265083)

"What pisses me off is that people think I am an Internet addict."

Well, you are. The problem lies not in the fact that you're an addict, but that people don't seem to realize what an addict is.

According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary [merriam-webster.com] , to addict oneself to something is "to surrender (oneself) to something habitually or obsessively". An addict (the noun) is simply a "devotee".

People are addicted, in the strictest sense, to all kinds of things -- chocolate, the morning paper, stamp collecting, C programming.

The word, however, has a pernicious pejorative use as someone who devotes him/herself to something to the point of causing him/herself (or others) harm. This is convenient to people who are disturbed at what someone does -- they can label them an "addict" and suddenly that person loses the right to do what they are doing.

This mechanism is most evident in American attitudes toward drugs and drug addicts. (Many of whom do injure themselves and others for their addictions; many, however, do not.) However, the same thing is at work all over our society.

Some of the most effective members of society have been addicts -- some things can only be accomplished by obsessive devotion to a cause. Addiction, by definition. Ted Williams was addicted to hitting baseballs. Most of the people in public office -- heaven help us all -- are addicted to politics. (As opposed to fair government addicts, whom I would gladly elect.)

But it doesn't have to be an obsession. It can simply be a habit. I'm an email addict, by that definition; I check to see if there's something new all day, whenever I think about it. I'm not obsessed about it; it's just easy to check, and keeps me up-to-date on correspondence. So I've cultivated the habit. If I weren't addicted to email, a lot of people would be irritated that I didn't do something for them in a timely manner.

Next time someone calls you an "internet addict", ask them if they have a favorite TV show. Or if they enjoy their job. Or if they're married. Show me someone totally unaddicted to something, and I'll show you someone with no hobbies, no passionate attachments, no connections to anything -- someone, in short, with real problems.


Reminds me of an old story (2)

tilly (7530) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265084)

Friend of mine met someone in a newsgroup. Needed my help to get a chat set up. A few months later he took a vacation, met her. Not long after that they got married.

It was strange meeting her and saying, "You know I was the guy that showed your husband how to use newsgroups, and then how to use chat?"

BTW you are the only person that I have seen describe a past long-term live-in boyfriend as, "ex-common-law husband".


PS Good luck on your marriage. I would try to think of some good advice, but I remember how much that sort of thing irritated me a decade ago next Tuesday..and yes, there is a reason that I can name that date so easily... :-)

Waitaminute... (1)

xiphos (120466) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265085)

Checking out that article that considers the dog parallell [wired.com] mentioned up above:
"...a full 92 percent [of dog owners] go on the Internet specifically to interact with other dog owners."
But, Rob R. Barron, guy behind the parallelling dog study states, "So many people, just wasting their days, not interacting with their fellow human"
So, just who and what are these other dog owners? :)
[fwiw, I agree with H, it's amusing]

On a more serious note, this does raise some interesting points. As stated a few posts up, by Slashdot-Terminal, it seems to largely be those who are in the older age bracket (though not exclusively so... afterall, I'm here ;) But even within that bracket, you get isolationists. Now, I'm no statician, and haven't dealt with statistics since... I'd rather not admit how long ago HighSchool was :) ANYhow, what I have noticed, and what many of these studies seem to never delve into, is that those who grew up with and around computers seem to have an easier time using them for comminicative and solcial purposes. I, for instance, remember growing up with such beasts as the Sinclair, Zenith Heath, and TI-99. When modems became readily available in my area, those of us who had been the computer-weenies nearly suspended for hacking into school records from the computer lab (Ha! _I_ had 8088's and 386's in MY Highschool!) started forming BBS communities. Many of my longest lasting and most solid freindships were developed Back in the Day. Ah for the sound of my new, blazingly fast 2400baud... Dang, I keep digressing :) By contrast, the majority of our classmates throughout the state school system were NOT connected. To them, we would go home and hole ourselves up with our computers, never to be seen outside of school. Were we actually isolated? No, but to the non-geeks, we appeared so.
And so I get to my point: Now, we have a wide range of generations who suddenly find themselves feeling as though the computer is being forced upon them; if they don't get a computer, don't get connected, somehow they'll be left out. Some manage to find out there IS community, IS interaction & whathaveyou out here in the digital realm, but many more never do. To the masses, the internet and the web are synonymous. Especially now with web-based e-mail interfaces, people do not realize just how limited port 80 is. Usenet, irc, online multiplayer games such as Diablo or Quake, MU*'s... all foreign concepts. Now their children, or at least it would seem a good many of them (again, I've done no formal study on this, so this is really all tounge-in-cheek), have at one point learned about these things, and communicate with peers through them. I can see where problems can arise from this, all with regards to internet censorship and "protecting our children" [protect from what?], but that's a whole other article :)
Anyway, back to my point; a lot of these studies seem to be run by the people who did NOT grow up with these mediums, do NOT understand how it could be a form of community and interaction, and thus are not qualified to properly study it's unique social structure at this time. Likewise, it may help steer those who otherwise WOULD end up mindless zombies (please be refraining from your luser=mindless zombie jokes, tempting as they are :) from trying to enter a world they do not, and likely never will, fully grasp or understand (note: If you are one of these people who came in relatively late in the game, and did manage to find your niche, then kudos! That statement applies to you not), but keep them in the "real" world they know how to interact with and otherwise be a producing member of society.
So, do I agree with this study? No, it is incomplete, failing to take into account all aspects of net use. Do I think this is a useful study? Yes, but not for the reasons intended by the researchers.

I should go now, for I have rambled enough on company time :)


Damned funny! (1)

Glytch (4881) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265086)

Especially the part about the researcher's last name.

"A shrubbery?"

Re:I have net friends whom I've never physically s (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1265087)

Kudos on that!!

Take where I am from. A floating 26 sq. miles rock floating in the Atlantic where most people are so fixed into 'stereotypes' and conservative that if you dare act like, sounds like, look like 'different' prepared to be black balled..

The net has been a great export for the few here like me so don't fit the 'average joe' character here. I agree spend a great time on the net isn't healthy but it's better than turning insane in a society that cant accept you or you.


Re:Katz in the Pit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1265088)

Nice to see the little change in format/approach to your articles Jon, Seems like it is working. I was quite surprised at the lack of Katz flames thru the thread. Thanks for becoming part of the community. Oh, and BTW, I'm posting AC just in case, well, you know.. . .

One big factor (3)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265089)

Were we lonely and isolated before getting on the net? I was. The net has helped.

Re:dogs are better than the internet :) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1265090)

what kind of dog are you using?!

(excellent point, BTW)

mistaking correlation for causality (3)

MoNsTeR (4403) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265091)

I don't think that spending lots of time online causes people to spend less time with friends and family. Rather, people who tend to spend little time with friends & family are the ones who spend lots of time online. If the internet had been widely available when I was in middle school, I would have spent immeasureable time on it, because I had few friends or other interests. Even now in college, I spend a lot of time on the 'net simply because I have nothing else to do.


Re:Introversion vs. Social Anxiety Disorder (1)

georgeha (43752) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265092)

IMHO, moderation is important when discussing personality traits.

I agree wholeheartedly. When I go to a party I try to moderate myself to +2 funny if I have the points left. It makes me less introverted.


The net isn't anti-social (1)

Mr.roboto (112555) | more than 14 years ago | (#1265094)

The net provides social contact that these people don't realize. just because I don't call up someone and talk to them doesn't mean that I isolate myself. I get on IRC nearly every day to talk with friends that I have made. The net makes it easy to meet people. for instance, I can get on IRC and go to a room where I know people have similar interests to the ones I do. I don't have to worry about things like how I look and such. The net gives the social advantage that people live on the net without any social stereotypes involved. The only thing that matters is intelligence and what you say. Your true colors show on the net where they wouldn't show otherwise. It isn't isolation, it's just a different form of being social.
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