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<nettime> CMU study on Internet use

From:	S. Kritikos [SMTP:napoli@WWA.COM]
Carnegie Mellon Study Reveals Negative Potential of Heavy
Internet Use on Emotional Well Being
Contact: Teresa S. Thomas, 412-268-3580 or
Anne Watzman, 412-268-3830
August 30, 1998

For immediate release:
Carnegie Mellon Study Reveals Negative Potential of Heavy
Internet Use on Emotional Well Being

PITTSBURGH-The Internet has the potential to make us socially isolated, 
lonely and depressed, according to the unexpected results of a study of 
home computer users by scientists at Carnegie Mellon University.
The findings are gathered from HomeNet, the first study to look 
specifically at the impact that the Internet is having over time on the 
social involvement and psychological well being of average Americans.
Published this month in The American Psychologist, a publication of the 
American Psychological Association, the findings provide a consistent 
picture of the downside of using the Internet extensively as a source of 
information or setting for friendship and or social support.
"We were surprised to find that what is a social technology has such 
anti-social consequences," says Robert Kraut, a professor of social 
psychology and human computer interaction at Carnegie Mellon who is the 
lead author of the article for The American Psychologist.
Even though people in the study heavily used electronic mail and other 
communication services on the Internet, the research found that spending 
time on the Internet was associated with later declines in talking among 
family members, reductions in the number of friends and acquaintances 
they kept up with, and increases in depression and loneliness.
Because the research studied the same people over time, it could rule 
out the possibility that people who are initially socially isolated, 
lonely and depressed were drawn to the Internet. Rather, according to 
hat has allowed people to keep in touch with distant family members and 
friends, to find information quickly and to develop friendships with 
people around the world apparently is also replacing vital, everyday 
human communication.

"Many users may be substituting WWW browsing and chat rooms for their 
stronger, real-life relationships," Kiesler says.  "You don't have to 
deal with unpleasantness, because if you don't like somebody's behavior, 
you can just log off. In real life, relationships aren't always easy. 
Yet dealing with some of those hard parts is good for us. It helps us
keep connected with people."
Greater use of the Internet was associated with statistically 
significant declines in the social involvement that Kiesler refers to. 
Decreases in social involvement were indicated by a drop-off in 
communication within a participant's families, the size of a person's 
social networks and reports by participants of increases in loneliness 
and depression, psychological states associated with reduced social 
In all, the study uses data on 169 people in 73 families. A little over 
half the subjects are female users, a quarter of them belong to 
minorities. The subject pool also represents a fairly wide income range.
Of the different demographic groups, teenagers seem the most vulnerable 
to potential negative effects. What's more, teenagers used the Internet 
for more hours than did adults.
Mukhopadhyay offers the following advice to parents: "The basic 
objective is to maintain open communication and to stay vigilant. As far 
as the computer and Internet go, you can put the machine in a public 
place - in the living room or kitchen rather than the basement or the 
kid's room. This will automatically ensure that your teen does not use 
the Internet too much."
Carnegie Mellon's scientists believe the findings will spark a debate, 
not only for Internet users and researchers, but also for government 
agencies looking at growth of the Internet and for companies that write 
Internet software.
Scherlis notes, "We are not branding the Internet as either socially 
good or bad. The Internet is a complex and multi-faceted social 
phenomenon and it is evolving rapidly.  It was created more than 20 
years ago for sharing technical information among scientists. It's 
really only recently that the Internet has become a public resource, and 
the average citizen who uses the 'Net has largely inherited this set of 
services. Our results show that there may be real benefits from greater 
research and development to the broad area of user level communication 
and information services. Both industry and government can foster this 
growth through research into new services, experimentation, evaluation 
and standards development."
The research was sponsored by the National Science Foundation, the 
Markle Foundation, and a consortium of computer companies (Apple 
Computer, Hewlett Packard, Intel Panasonic), software companies (Lotus 
Development Corporation, Interval Research), and communications 
companies (AT&T Research, US Postal Service, Bell Atlantic, Bellcore, US 
West Advanced Technologies, NTT, CNET) and others (NPD).

For more information, contact:
Teresa Sokol Thomas

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