Archive for Saturday, October 2, 2004

Study: Internet not an anti-social tool

October 2, 2004


Fears that the Internet would lead to a generation of computer geeks who never leave their keyboards are unfounded, according to a Kansas University faculty member's research.

The studies show the Internet isn't replacing face-to-face or telephone communication among the Kansas University students studied.

"I think the focus on what the Internet will do to our personal relationships is misplaced anxiety," said Nancy Baym, associate professor of communication studies who conducted the research.

Her findings on the subject are published in the current edition of the journal "New Media and Society."

In the first study, 51 KU students kept a log of significant social interactions they initiated during a three- to five-day period. Of the 851 interactions recorded, 64 percent were face-to-face, 18 percent were by phone and 16 percent were on the Internet.

The second study involved interviews with 496 students, which showed students used the Internet to facilitate existing relationships. The majority of students in that study said Internet communication was "vastly inferior" to other forms.

"It's another nail in the coffin of the 'loner that uses the Internet' stereotype," Baym said. "It doesn't seem to be an either-or at all. It's always presented as 'What will online do to offline (communication)?'" she said.

Baym said fears about the Internet curbing personal communication mirrored fears about the introduction of other technology throughout history.

"People had the crazy idea after airplanes were invented that, once we all got up in the air and looked down, we'd see we are all one people and war would be banned," Baym said. "A few decades later we were dropping bombs out of planes."

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