Internet and Social Life

Topics: Internet, Sociology, Interpersonal relationship Pages: 26 (9144 words) Published: March 12, 2013
Annu. Rev. Psychol. 2004. 55:X--X
doi: 10.1146/annurev.psych.55.090902.141922
Copyright © 2004 by Annual Reviews. All rights reserved
John A. Bargh and Katelyn Y.A. McKenna
New York University, New York, New York 10003; email:,
Key Words communication, groups, relationships, depression, loneliness „ Abstract The Internet is the latest in a series of technological breakthroughs in interpersonal communication, following the telegraph, telephone, radio, and television. It combines innovative features of its predecessors, such as bridging great distances and reaching a mass audience. However, the Internet has novel features as well, most critically the relative anonymity afforded to users and the provision of group venues in which to meet others with similar interests and values. We place the Internet in its historical context, and then examine the effects of Internet use on the user’s psychological well-being, the formation and maintenance of personal relationships, group memberships and social identity, the workplace, and community involvement. The evidence suggests that while these effects are largely dependent on the particular goals that users bring to the interaction---such as self-expression, affiliation, or competition---they also interact in important ways with the unique qualities of the Internet communication situation. INTRODUCTION

It is interactive: Like the telephone and the telegraph (and unlike radio or television), people can overcome great distances to communicate with others almost instantaneously [AU: Annual Reviews style is to cap the first letter of a complete sentence following colon.]. It is a mass medium: Like radio and television (and unlike the telephone or telegraph), content and advertising can reach millions of people at the same time. It has been vilified as a powerful new tool for the devil, awash in pornography, causing users to be addicted to hours each day of “surfing”---hours during which they are away from their family and friends, resulting in 2 depression and loneliness for the individual user, and further weakening neighborhood and community ties. It has been hailed by two U.S. presidents as the ultimate weapon in the battle against totalitarianism and tyranny, and credited by Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan with creating a “new economy.” It was denounced by the head of the Miss France committee as “an uncontrolled medium where rumormongers, pedophiles, prostitutes, and criminals could go about their business with impunity” after it facilitated the worldwide spread of rumors that the reigning Miss France was, in fact, a man (Reuters 2001). “I’m terrified by this type of media,” she said.

“It,” of course, is the Internet. Although some welcome it as a panacea while others fear it as a curse, all would agree that it is quite capable of transforming society. Hard-nosed and dispassionate observers have recently concluded that the Internet and its related technologies “...will change almost every aspect of our lives---private, social, cultural, economic and political…because [they] deal with the very essence of human society: communication between people. Earlier technologies, from printing to the telegraph…have wrought big changes over time. But the social changes over the coming decades are likely to be much more extensive, and to happen much faster, than any in the past, because the technologies driving them are continuing to develop at a breakneck pace. More importantly, they look as if together they will be as pervasive and ubiquitous as electricity.” (Manasian 2003, p. 4)

The Internet is fast becoming a natural, background part of everyday life. In 2002, more than 600 million people worldwide had access to it (Manasian 2003). Children now grow up...
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