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Internet Paradox

Internet Paradox

Facultatea de tiine Politice, Administrative i ale Comunicrii Publicitate, an II Onofrei Alexandra, Murean Andreea, Rteiu Cristian, Vlean Luca Vlad

Internet Paradox


This paper explores the impact of internet use on interpersonal relationships between people and it will try to determine whether or not social interactions are affected by prolongued use of the internet (social media). This study will have two parts, the theoretical part in which we present a brief introduction into what social media trully represents and have analysed a few studies concerning the internet paradox and the applied part which will consist of a questionnaire and an experiment. Key concepts are psychological well-being, lonliness, attracting our attention with e-mail, instant messaging, chat rooms, online games. The main cause that lead to this paper was the moment we saw 4 teenagers sitting in a bar. Instead of talking and socializing with each other, they were all starring at their smartphones.

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When we think about social media, the first thing that comes to mind is FACEBOOK. Since 2004, Facebook has rissen almost from scratch. It all started in a Harvard dorm room. This is believed to be the birth of social media. The website started to launch after it gained both notoriety and popularity. Everybody wanted in. The founder then decided to create a website at a larger scale, not only for Harvard students. In 2007, Facebook had only a few million users. Nowadays, its the worlds second most popular website, after Google. Facebook gained popularity in Romania in the year 2010. Of course, social media does not mean only Facebook. Websites like MySpace, AOL, Hi5 have contributed to the term. Nowadays, it is one of the most reliable sources of news. It has changed the way people interact with each other. But does it completely destroy human face to face interractions? That is what we want to find out.

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Because the Internet permits social contact across time, distance, and personal circumstances, it allows people to connect with distant as well as local family and friends, co-workers, business contacts, and with strangers who share similar interests. Broad social access could increase peoples social involvement, as the telephone did in an early time.1 Loneliness is a universal human emotion, yet it is both complex and unique to each individual. Loneliness has no single common cause, so the preventions and treatments for this damaging state of mind vary dramatically. A lonely child who struggles to make friends at his school has different needs that a lonely elderly man whose wife has recently died. In order to understand loneliness, it is important to take a closer look at exactly what we mean by the term "lonely" as well as the various causes, health consequences, symptoms and potential treatments for loneliness.2 Loneliness has a wide range of negative effects on both physical and mental health. Some of the health risks associated with loneliness includes:

Depression and suicide Cardiovascular disease and stroke Increased stress levels Decreased memory and learning Antisocial behavior Poor decision-making Alcoholism and drug abuse The progression of Alzheimer's disease Altered brain function

To combat the feeling of loneliness people tend to look for forms of entertainment online. This is due to the fact that nowadays, on the internet, you have access to almost any form of

Robert Kraut, Sara Kiesler, Bonka Boneva, Jonathon Cummings, Vicki Helgeson, and Anne Crawford : Internet Paradox Revisited, (2001). Human-Computer Interaction Institute. Page 4. 2 Loneliness Causes, Effects and Treatments for Loneliness, http://psychol

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entertainment (news, movies, music, games, etc.). This ultimately becomes a loop in which people get caught and loose themselves in this vicious circle. Due to the ease of internet communication it is thought that people are encouraged to spend more time alone. At the expense of face-to-face communication and companionship people now preffer spending more time on the internet talking to strangers and forming shallow relationships only in the online environment. Whether they are at home or in a social enviroment (coffee shops, parks, public transport), they preffer to use gadgets, such as: smartphones, laptops, etc. to communicate. 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 with the Internet; they and future generations will take it for granted just as they now do television and the telephone (Turow & Kavenaugh 2003). In California, 13-year-olds use their home computer as essentially another telephone to chat and exchange instant messages with their school friends (Gross et al. 2002).3 Because nowadays information is only a click away, we dont actually need to have a conversation with someone about a specific subject. We can find anything with a search engine; such ease of access makes us become addicted to the internet and transforms a normal conversation into social awkwardness. This in turn is said to have a deindividuating effect on the individuals involved, producing behavior that is more self-centered and less socially regulated than usual.4 Besides this ease of access, we have Wi-Fi that enables us to use the internet anytime and anywhere. Whether we are in a coffee shop, at work, in the park, etc. using smartphones, tablets, laptops and any other device that can connect to wireless connection, we have the same benefits as at home. The internet was first developed as a means of communication between people and for a high transfer of information. Nowadays its that exactly because of that high transfer of information that people dont rely on any other form of communication. In the past few years there has been an enormous growth in number of personal used computers this leading to a debate between sociologist and economists on whether this use of internet is favorable to a persons psychological well-being.
3 4

John A. Bargh and Katelyn Y.A. McKenna: The Internet and Social Life (2004). Annual Reviews. Page 2. John A. Bargh and Katelyn Y.A. McKenna: The Internet and Social Life (2004). Annual Reviews. Page 6.

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According to Morgan it is thought that in this digital era it is practically impossible to feel lonely and in 2011 there was a survey conducted by Relationships Australia. The results of the survey showed that: "Forty two per cent of Australians who used an average of four methods of technology to communicate [such as email, SMS, Facebook, Twitter] were lonely compared with 11 per cent of people who used only one. Also people with ages between 25 34 were the most likely to feel lonely, while those between 18 24 are the second loneliest group. Sue Miller (manager at Relationships Australia Queensland) says she was surprised by the results which also showed respondents who indicated they frequently felt lonely were more likely to use Facebook to communicate with friends, family and potential partners (54 per cent) than respondents who infrequently (39 per cent) and respondents who never (28 per cent) felt lonely. "What we don't know is which came first: was it that they felt lonely and they used technology as a means to lessen their loneliness; or are they using more social media and that is increasing their loneliness?" explains Miller. "We now want to look at that question in more detail."5 To sum up, we have demonstrated the applicability of internet paradox, and not the fact that Internet creates addiction. Whether you are a student, or a teenager, both social media and real life socializing are key factors in your development in the community. But please be advised, that like in any case, there are extremes. Becoming socially awkward may lead to a life full of complexes and insecurities. And having no contact at all with people could make you an outcast. The key is to be assertive. Dedicate your time to both activities.

Is technology making us lonely?, published 03/11/2011


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Annex 1 Questionnaire
Questionnaire Internet Paradox It is a well-known fact that teenagers and students spend a meaningful amount of time online, instead of studying or going out. This questionnaires main purpose is to determine whether or not face-to-face communication is influenced by use of internet. Our sole purpose is to, hopefully, prove ourselves wrong; that in fact, teenagers and students prefer going out instead of procrastinating online. Our targeted group is composed of teenagers and students with ages between 15 25, strictly from Romania, from various parts of the country, with disregard for social status, economical status. Personal information 1. Age: 2.Gender: 3.Study level: High School College Yes No (stop) 2 to 4 hours 4 to 6 hours 6 to 8 hours 8 or more Information Chat

4.Do you use social media applications (Facebook, Skype, Y! Messenger, Twitter etc.)

5.How much time do you spend on a social network on a daily basis?

6.For what activity do you use social media?

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Online gaming Professional use (high school/college related issues) Personal use (upload photos) Everyday Once every two days Twice a week Less than twice a week Never Chatting with someone online (skip to Q.10) Calling someone (skip to Q.10) Going out with someone (go to Q.9)

7.How often do you have offline social contact?

8.What do you prefer of the following:

9.If you go out with someone do you still find means to check your notifications, news feed, news flow, etc.? Yes No You chat with them You call them You talk to them face-to-face Outside with friends At home surfing the internet/using social media Yes (go to Q.13) No (skip to Q.14) _____________________________________________________________________

10.Do you get along better with someone if:

11. Usually would you rather be:

12. Do you feel lonely after a prolonged use of the internet?

13. If you feel lonely, what do you do? (give a short answer)

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14. With how many friends from the online environment do you socialize with in the offline environment? None 1 to 10 11 to 20 21 to 40 Over 40 Online Offline Brought you and your family/friends closer (skip to Q.18) Not changed your relationships (skip to Q.18) Created a distance between you and your family/friends (go to Q.17) You feel disappointed/sad It doesnt affect you You feel good about it

15. Is the quality of your relationship with someone better:

16. Do you feel that social media has:

17. How does this distance affect you?

18.Do you think that the internet/social media has affected your face-to-face relationships? If yes, explain shortly how, if no, thank you for your time. ____________________________________________________________________

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Questionnaire Results

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We have a total of 81 subjects who have answered our questionnaire. As mentioned before, in the theoretical part, answers to our survey vary. The predominant part that answered our survey was formed out of women. It seems they use internet the most for maintaining social status. When we asked the subjects how many hours they spend online, the predominant part answered 2-4 hours which is the minimum. Only 4 subjects said they spend more than 8 hours a day, but one of them does not seem to be affected at all by this, having both online and real life social status on an amazing level. It seems that most of our subjects use the internet for finding information, and then personal use. This means that people dont need to go out anymore and meet with other people; they can just stay home, share pictures and information about each other and other subjects they are interested in. Even when they go out people still feel the need and find the means to check their notifications. It seems that 72 percent of the people that answered our questionnaire feel lonely after prolonged use of the internet, but this does not stop them from further using it.

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Annex 2 Experiment
For our experiment we have chosen 10 people that have previously answered our questionnaire and for a period of 3 to 4 weeks we will analyze their social interactions throughout the online and offline environment, to determine if there is a change in their relationships and if the prolonged use of the internet/social media affects their psychological well-being. Week 1 During this period of time we will study the normal behavior of this group consisting of social interactions in the online and offline environment, analyzing how much of their conversations take place in each of them. Week 2 This week is solely dedicated to the members of the group getting to know one another; this will help us through the following weeks. They will be asked to spend at least one hour outside and one on the internet in order to do so. Week 3 We split the group in two, one will be asked to spend as much time as possible interacting with the others only online, while the others will be asked to spend as much time outside doing various activities. Week 4 We will switch the two groups between one another in order to replicate the experiment that means that the first group will go through the same process as the second group and vice-versa.

We will try to determine if their relationships evolved better with or without the internet and how they felt during each part of the experiment on a psychological level. If they felt lonely or sad and in need of face-to-face communication we shall conclude that the internet paradox is true and that slowly normal live interactions are abolished.

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Annex 3

Annex 4

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Jean-Francois, Yutaka Yamauchi, Michael Suman, The Internet, Social Networks and Loneliness Robert Kraut, Michael Patterson, Vicki Lundmark, Sara Kiesler, Tridas Mukopadhyay, and William Scherlis, Internet Paradox A Social Technology That Reduces Social Involvement and Psychological Well-Being?

Robert Kraut, Sara Kiesler, Bonka Boneva, Jonathon Cummings, Vicki Helgeson, Internet Paradox Revisited John A. Bargh and Katelyn Y.A. McKenna, The Internet and Social Life

Branwen Morgan, 03/11/2011, Is technology making us lonely?

Kendra Cherry, Loneliness Causes, Effects and Treatments for Loneliness