Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
The Internet The Media

Social Side-Effects Of Internet Use 476

Posted by timothy
from the vice-versa-too dept.
venicebeach writes "The World Internet Project has released its third annual report on internet usage. It contains few surprises, but lots of interesing stats - for example the most experienced internet users spend an average of 15.8 hours online per week. CNN is running a story on the social findings - "New study shatters Internet 'geek' image." Apparently they are suprised to hear that internet users are more social than non-users: internet users watch less television, read more books and engage in more social activities."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Social Side-Effects Of Internet Use

Comments Filter:
  • by glinden (56181) * on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @03:33PM (#7976519) Homepage Journal
    Considering that the average American watches four hours of television per day [centredaily.com], I'm not sure the average person has much time left for socializing. Anything that reduces the amount of TV watched, including using the Internet, is likely to improve how social that person is.
  • by BlewScreen (159261) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @03:36PM (#7976564)
    I'm not sure how that makes your point. If you replace an hour of TV with an hour of the Internet, you haven't exactly gained time for social activities...

    -bs
  • Uh Oh... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Wheaty18 (465429) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @03:38PM (#7976619)
    If the 'most experienced' internet users spend an average of 15.8 hours a week online, what the hell does that make me? (Most Experienced)?
  • by Metallic Matty (579124) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @03:38PM (#7976623)
    Mostly this article just reinforces what I already knew about myself and my online associates. Honestly, the whole geek image has been one of stereotype since the beginning. Not everyone who uses computers and goes online frequently has thick glasses and no girlfriend, sitting around playing EverQuest all day. (This isn't an attack on EQ players, I am one.)

    Most of my friends who can be found sitting behind their computer all day watch little to no television, and spend a great deal of their time reading (I personally find e-books easier to read than real books, and do so often.) I would say the internet is a far better medium to immerse yourself in than television or radio.
  • by dustmote (572761) <fleck55&hotmail,com> on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @03:39PM (#7976640) Homepage Journal
    I can't imagine watching that much television. Now that I've finally gotten used to not watching it (for about three years now, with occasional watching when at other peoples' homes) I can't stand to watch the "evil box" for very long. Every time I sit in front of it for very long at all I become very conscious of the amount of time that I am wasting on it, time that could have been used doing so many much more constructive things. (Or just surfing the net)
  • by Rallion (711805) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @03:39PM (#7976641) Journal
    For me, the internet is a primarily social entity. I use it to communicate and to talk to people, to speak my ideas and see others. My time online is far more social than an equal amount of time in front of the boob tube.
  • by jhines0042 (184217) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @03:41PM (#7976668) Journal
    Unless you are being social on the internet.

    I organize lots of outings with my friends through e-mail. Isn't that being social?

  • In my case... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by blixel (158224) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @03:41PM (#7976681)
    Apparently they are suprised to hear that internet users are more social than non-users:

    internet users watch less television
    .. True

    read more books ... True

    and engage in more social activities. ... Definitely false. Unless IRC and Instant Messaging is now considered a social activity.
  • by 0x0d0a (568518) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @03:42PM (#7976687) Journal
    I'm just curious -- unless you're, say, a parent reading to their child, how exactly is book reading a social activity?
  • by greymond (539980) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @03:42PM (#7976690) Homepage Journal
    I watch very little tv (no pre-set shows i watch/like)

    I read books often (1 every month or so)

    I only "go out" on weekends

    I spend the majority of my time at work chatting online and surfing the net, then I come home and play FFXI.

    Why should I go outside? I get hay fever or cold or could get in an accident. It's not warm enough to use the pool yet, and the jacuzzi is nice, but I get cold when I get out.

    I think i'll just stay in and continue my life.
  • Re:Not surprised. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ParadoxicalPostulate (729766) <saapad@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @03:44PM (#7976725) Journal
    I agree.

    Although I consider my self to be fairly competent when it comes to conducting myself socially IRL, when it comes to meaningful discussions the net is the way to go - even when I am talking to people I know IRL.

    From my observation, the biggest reason your confidence gets boosted when on the net is because you don't have to worry about the person's initial reaction - i.e. you don't see facial expressions, hand movements, etc. Thus, you are not continuously evaluating your "speech" to see if they care. That leaves a lot more room for confidence and attention to what you do mean to say.
  • by c_jonescc (528041) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @03:45PM (#7976731)
    Except, I can surf when it's convenient to my social schedule. TV viewers are usually locked up from 7 to 11 in the evening. I think that's the most likely reason.
  • Re:Not surprised. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dustmote (572761) <fleck55&hotmail,com> on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @03:45PM (#7976733) Homepage Journal
    Yeah, this roughly parallels my experiences. I had already run into a lot of the common pitfalls of the social experience, via flamewars and the like, by the time I was ready to interact with people. Most of the growth then required was personal growth, rather than interpersonal. Well, more of it than I would have thought, anyway. I wonder if this is the new generation of geekdom, some sort of change in the traditional isolation? Doesn't seem to help love lives much, but most of the geeks I know nowadays have fairly large social support networks, as opposed to my non-geek friends.
  • by photoblur (552862) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @03:45PM (#7976734) Homepage
    In the last few decades, TV became the common ground that brought much of our society together... disparate groups of people didn't have much in common, except TV. As TV began to model more and more content after our culture, we began to model our lives after what we saw on TV. Sooner or later we were bound to reach a point where life and TV were nearly interchangable... why go outside and meet people when you can just "meet" someone new on TV? And it's so much easier to "meet" someone that way.

    Thankfully, the internet came along to provide a dissenting fracture to the TV as life/life as TV spiral. The internet encourages interaction between people. The internet makes diversity within society easier to accomplish, while at the same time providing a common ground that can bring people together. As the next step in our culture's social model, the internet is a positive step forward.
  • by Fulkkari (603331) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @03:47PM (#7976754)

    ...unless you have been using that time chatting on IRC.

  • by DenOfEarth (162699) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @03:49PM (#7976797) Homepage

    Considering that the average American watches four hours of television per day

    What's really crazy about those four hours is that 45 minutes of it is probably commercials!! I'm not sure if that's accurate or not, but the commercials are the entire reason why I don't watch television anymore (well, except for hockey games of course).

  • by rcastro0 (241450) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @03:53PM (#7976848) Homepage
    Apparently they are suprised to hear that internet users are more social than non-users: internet users watch less television, read more books and engage in more social activities.
    This leads you to think that if you surf the internet you become more prone to social interactions and you read more books. However all of these things are probably related to something else.

    The article is not clear about it, but I would guess they did not adjust for Socio-Economic Segments (SES). SES would reflect mainly an individual's income and education level.

    Internet usage of course begun in the higher SES levels (having started mainly in the academic world) -- and has ever since penetrated more the top levels than the bottom ones (this has in turn given risen to the term digital divide [wikipedia.org]). On the other hand, guess which SES reads more books and has a richer social experience ?
  • Re:15.8hrs/week! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ArmenTanzarian (210418) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @03:53PM (#7976849) Homepage Journal
    Often surveys will knock out answers too far outside of the mean as people who took the survey as a joke. I imagine we would fall into those categories that are eliminated because they're considered (by non /.'ers) too high to be factual.
  • by happyfrogcow (708359) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @03:55PM (#7976873)
    I'm just curious -- unless you're, say, a parent reading to their child, how exactly is book reading a social activity?

    Book reading as a social event:

    Read a book. Tell your friends what you thought of it and if they should or should not read it. Once they read it, or even while they havn't finished it yet, discuss the book. I have a book I read a few months ago. I finished it and passed it along to a friend. Each of her parents read it, and her friend and mother read it as well. We've talked about it a lot of random times.

    In the event that you don't have any book reading friends, find a book club or hang out at a bookstore. Books can be catalysts for socializing.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @03:58PM (#7976921)
    Space: The Final Frontier or What's Between
    G. W. Bush's [gwbush.org] ears.

    Thanks in advance,
    Kilgore Trout

  • by Slightly Askew (638918) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @03:59PM (#7976932) Journal
    I would much rather my child take his cues on how to act socially from Clifford or Sesame Street than from the community in which I live. I have seen him interact with many children of different ethnicities and disabilities, and have never been embarassed by some social gaffe. I owe this to the fact that his mother and I never pointed out that being black or asian is any different than being blond or tall, and also to the fact that Barney, Big Bird, and the like always had mixed racial friends. If it was left up to my "village" to raise my "child", I have no doubt he would be an ignorant, bigoted redneck like the rest of them.

    Watching television does not reduce the sociability of a person. It can teach them how to be a reponsible citizen. I'd rather my child be in front of a TV watching Caillou than being social with the other kids while chucking rocks at the Mexican kids.

    No, it is not coincidence that the television shows I listed are on PBS

  • by lukior (727393) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @04:01PM (#7976972)
    Actually i used to view television primarily for the news. Now what would have taken me four hours channel surfing for relevant news i can easily get in an hour on the net freeing up 3 hours for social activities.
  • by benzapp (464105) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @04:04PM (#7977005)
    This is very true, not merely funny.

    I can't count how many times I have tried to call a friend and been told to call after show X is finished.

    Or people who don't want to go to the bar because they need to see Show Y.

    People really do plan their lives around TV, it is very sad.
  • Re:Not surprised. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Monoliath (738369) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @04:12PM (#7977089)
    I agree with you as well. I wont go as far as saying that I was once an anti social person and the internet changed that, because that isn't my case, but I can say that interacting with people across the internet is much easier than in the real world, like someone said in a post above, you don't have to deal with all of the external social scrutiny that takes place in a first time physical meeting. On the web, the interaction is purely mental, it?s almost as if it's more of a direct connection between two minds, because only language is the medium of communication, words to be more specific (body language, voice tones, facial expressions can't be mis-interpreted, because they're not there in the first place)

    On the other hand, this also creates a much larger problem, the issue of authenticity of the interaction from the ground up. In reality, we all use those conversational elements such as vocal tone, facial expressions and body language to judge the credibility of the communication, and how true it is, because this is the only character information you can gather from them at the time (apart from the actual conversation), coming from the individual. Of course, both of these scenarios would apply best to someone you're meeting for the first time, if it's someone you know, the process for calculating the credibility of what you're hearing becomes much more complicated; variables such as how long you've known the person, if they lie a lot etc, come into play.

    While the internet has made it much easier to interact and meet new people by shedding the stigmas of the social world, it also provides a much better mental rock to hide behind when wanting to swindle or mislead individuals in any case.
  • Re:Not surprised. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Have Blue (616) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @04:14PM (#7977119) Homepage
    Plus, you get much more time to think about what you're going to say. Ever been in a real-life conversation where the other party tolerated a 20-second delay in your response?
  • by Slightly Askew (638918) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @04:15PM (#7977127) Journal

    I get so tired of this assumption that just because a person reads a lot, they are automatically more intelligent. I happen to read quite a bit, but I know people who spend way more time than most people watching TV, yet are very intelligent. Specifically, I know of a college professor that could out debate anyone on Crossfire, and does nothing all evening but watch History and PBS.

    Also, what's with the assumption that any reading material is automatically more valuable than any television show? I can learn more watching 30 minutes of TLC, Discovery, A&E, Biography, History Channel, or PBS than I can in spending three hours reading whatever trash Oprah is recommending this week. I do agree that reading increases vocabulary, but I would also argue that television is much more conducive to other areas of learning, as it delivers its message via sight and sound.

    As for the social aspect, many of us are forced into social situations all day long. We do not need to spend our times outside of the office, carpool, school, college, whatever to increase our social skills. However, we do need "alone time" so that we can regroup and prepare for the next day.

  • by KFK - Wildcat (512842) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @04:16PM (#7977143)
    Strange, it's kind of the opposite for me.

    I used to watch news on TV and read the papers, now I browse most of the time.
    I have good knowledge of tech news and important international events, but I find that I'm not really aware of local news anymore. In fact, "local" here means anything from the city to the country (Canada).

    The information is available, it's just that I don't really care much...
  • by nelsonal (549144) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @04:20PM (#7977184) Journal
    And you can cram 4 hours of TV into 2.5 hours of TiVo.
  • by gnalle (125916) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @04:25PM (#7977249)
    I cannot access the new report, but here is a pages with some of their former reports: 2000 -2002 [worldinternetproject.net]. My impression is that you cannot conclude very much from these reports. Let's take the US 2002 report [worldinternetproject.net] as an example. They have collected data from 2000 households in America. Using these data they can compare the households with internet access to households without internet access.

    The problem is that internet access is correllated to education level. Furthermore a person with a high education will tend to read more books. In other words it is not very surprising if internet users read more books. Similar arguments can be applied to many of the other conclusions in the report.

    In conclusion this report does not tell us if internet use changes the life style of a person.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @04:35PM (#7977431)
    I owe this to the fact that his mother and I never pointed out that being black or asian is any different than being blond or tall

    Don't worry, someone else will teach him to be racist. I learned all about racism in my Baltimore middle school. Our black female Librarian taught all of us that there are only 2 races, black and non-black. (That is right, I learned rasicm from a black woman.) If you are non-black you are a narrow minded racist pig and you have victimized blacks for generations. Regardless of where you or your ancestors were born you enslaved black people and you owe them.

    I learned the lessons of the 70s left very well. And, my parents didn't have to teach me. Certainly not the lessons they would have taught me. The personal is political. Even today, I look at a TV commercial and identify the racial/sexual makeup of the ad and determine which group is being made fun of (usually the white male, BTW).

    Don't worry even if you don't teach your kids this, someone will come along a teach your kids how to view people as just a demographic to hate or feel sorry for.

  • Re:In my case... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by blixel (158224) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @04:42PM (#7977525)
    Is drinking a social activity? Because as near as I can tell, every member of the online Perl community except Damian Conway enjoys getting together often for drinks.

    I think "getting together" is one of the key things in determining what is social and what is not. (Though getting together is not in and of itself the sole determining factor. Joining a monastery isn't exactly a social thing.)

    But sitting in front of your computer in your underwear for 12 hours a day in an IRC chat room just doesn't seem to qualify as a social thing by the common sense definition of the word. Maybe some people are so completely introverted that they want to believe that IRC is social. I guess that's fine if it works for them. But I miss the days when I would hang out with my friends out in the real world, doing real things away from the computer.
  • by shubert1966 (739403) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @04:42PM (#7977542) Journal
    I killed my TV in 1998. It was because of something I noticed while watching the NFL's "Sunday Ticket". You know, you just sit around all day Sunday and watch 3 three-hour games and 2 hours of pre/post game. 11 hours of beer and football - I was sick.

    The final straw came when I noticed something. I could switch to another secondary game when mine went to commercial, and then switch back to the primary game when the commercial was over. What was important was that I just 'knew' when the commercials were over - without checking. I realized that my subconcious was counting the 2 or 3 minutes that a "TV Timeout" takes, and was telling me to return just as the fade-in occured. I tested the hypothesis for weeks, and even proved it to my friends.

    Then I remembered Pizza Delivery. As a driver, I would oftentimes knock on the door of someone watching TV. If the TV was visible from the door, I would feel the tug of my eyes to glance over at it. While I could control it rather easily - the fact that it was 'calling' to me freaked me out. It has little to do with content though.

    Programs go to commercial at given times. While commercials are often even better to view than the shows, there's a stigma attached to commercials as 'garbage'. It seems like a classic example of reward and punishment - regardless, it does condition us. Good or Bad are irrelevant at that point - just the effect was enough for me to kill it.

    Parent however, do use TV to occupy their kids. Arguably better than video games. TV is a remarkable medium, and I used to watch PBS religiously. Anymore I think their kinda bland.

    Anyway, that's my testimonial: I got rid of TV and
    1) went to 65 hours a week at work,
    2) took classes,
    3) joined a community group
    - all at the same time, and still had time to program and surf.

  • Well Duh! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SomeOtherGuy (179082) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @04:48PM (#7977639) Journal
    Apparently they are suprised to hear that internet users are more social than non-users: internet users watch less television, read more books and engage in more social activities."

    That's because I can find out anything RIGHT now by clickety clicking....rather that sitting in front of my TV and listening to the sound bite commercials from the news channells all night waiting to "find out at 10..."
  • by T-Ranger (10520) <[jeffw] [at] [chebucto.ns.ca]> on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @05:02PM (#7977819) Homepage
    I have a DSL connection at home, and I work from home. My router/firewall/server and desktop are always turned on. I always have a copy of mozilla running, and evolution is up most of the time.

    Does that count as being online 168 hours a week?

    If Im working on some programming project for, say a 4 hour streach, and Im flipping back and forth to a browser pointed at some online documentation, does that count as 4 hours online? Or (pulling a number out of my ass) is only 10% of that online?

  • Or not... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Abcd1234 (188840) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @05:08PM (#7977885) Homepage
    ... doing a survey of the population of Internet users is more than a little selective. I'd guess Internet users are probably also better educated and more affluent. Does that mean the Internet *made* them more educated and affluent? No. It means more educated, affluent people use the Internet. The same goes here. *shrug*
  • by YukioMishima (205721) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @05:21PM (#7978053)
    It may be that Sesame Street provides a wonderful shelter for your child's development; however (one would hope) your child must leave that shelter and enter the real world. I'm all for great programing, but to say that TV is going to produce your responsible citizens is just as erroneous as the argument that videogames make people violent - it's the ability or inability to interact well with society that determines either of those two actions. Let your kids watch a little TV, but when it comes to raising them, take them out into the community and spend time with them while they're there. Then, you (rightfully) have no one to blame, or praise, but yourself.
  • It's just there... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by slittle (4150) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @05:27PM (#7978166) Homepage
    I've had a permanent connection for many years - back as far as permanent dialup. I've long stopped thinking in terms of online or offline, Internet use is just another seamless part of daily computing.

    Trying to count how long geeks spend online daily would be as stupid as trying to count how long non-geeks spend using electricity each day.
  • what's "offline"? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @05:31PM (#7978229) Homepage Journal
    I stare at my computer screen for scores of hours a week. I spend lots of time reading documents pulled from the Net, either webpages or downloaded docs (apt-get install ; man ). The actual Net transactions are very short compared to my reading time: I read at about 4800bps and download at about 3Mbps. When am I online? What is "offline"?
  • by miyako (632510) <miyako.gmail@com> on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @05:44PM (#7978424) Homepage Journal
    I know the parent poster was intending to be funny, but I think there is a lot of truth to the statment.
    At least in the social ciricles of which I am a part , or an observer of, there seems to be a sort or line by which you can divide people into two groups. The first group pride themselves on intelligence, or at least in learning about new things, keeping up with world events, and in general being well rounded people. The other is the group which prides themselves on ignorance, these are the people who are proud that they cannot set the clock on their VCR. It is the former group which I think tends to spend more time online, seeing it as a valuable resource for information and for the communication of ideas in an open forum (be it IRC, newsgroups, /. or whatever), this is the same group which tends to read more often, and whatch less TV. The latter of the groups, while not illiterate (at least not the majority), seem to think that there is a finite amount of thinking they are born with, and are being very careful not to use it all up. This group is unconserned with expanding their own horizons, and as such have little use for the majority of the content available on the internet. It is this group which tends to spend more time watching TV, which provides a form of entertainment(if you can call most tv entertaining) that requires very little thought.
    It seems to me that everyone has some amount of time is spent non-socially. It is this time which those intent on learning and the like spend on the net, and those content to live in a happy stupor spend watching TV. Of course the average net user spends less time on the net than the average TV viewer spends watching TV because the net user has more options available to him or her. For those wishing to use their brain as little as possible, the majority of that non-social time can be spent watching tv, movies, and thats about it. For the group who likes to learn and expand their mind however, the choices for that non-social time include being on the internet, reading, drawing, playing music, and a number of other artistic or challenging activities.
  • causality? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by convolvatron (176505) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @05:56PM (#7978554)
    "Apparently they are suprised to hear that internet users are more social than non-users: internet users watch less television, read more books and engage in more social activities."

    apparently the authors are a little confused about causality
  • by xankar (710025) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @06:24PM (#7978907) Journal
    It may not be social activity, but trying to say something informative/insightful/funny in the eyes of others every time you post is definitely an exercise in understanding people, and thus an exercise in social skills.
  • by obnoximoron (572734) on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @06:44PM (#7979141)
    > Honestly, the whole geek image has been one of stereotype since the beginning. Not everyone who uses computers and goes online frequently has thick glasses and no girlfriend, sitting around playing EverQuest all day.

    Do you realize that you just replaced one stereotype with another. Not everyone wearing thick glasses and/or with no girlfriend is a geek.
  • by Jo Owen (612634) <jo DOT owen AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday January 14, 2004 @08:29PM (#7980172)
    But what you also have to add into that equation is the fact that in canada you will get free health care, Better free schooling, and a host of other 'free at point of delivery' services for which you have to pay in the U.S.

While money doesn't buy love, it puts you in a great bargaining position.

Working...