The internet, once a simple tool for interconnecting government agencies, is now being used and enjoyed by millions all over the world. It has changed social behavior of its users and studies reveal that his can be both an advantage and disadvantage. Businesses have developed and industries are facing either advancement or discouragement from the popularity of the internet. Information for research and education are easier to access for those who can go online. Entertainment has been cheaper and easier to access like never before.
Like in most things in this world, the internet can be a great help or the worst assistant so going online needs to be done in moderation.
The Internet Has Changed Our Lives
The internet is now widely used by many people all over the world. According to the statistics, the total users of the internet in the whole world amounts to around 1,319,872,109 for the year end of 2007 (Miniwatts Marketing Group, 2008). Communication is far easier because of the World Wide Web.
It is safe to say that it has led to the development of globalization faster than any new invention has ever done.
Below are reviews of the studies made on the internet and how it has changed the way people are interacting, doing business and learning.
The Internet and Social Interaction
Carnegie Mellon Home Net Project
In September 1998, the American Psychologist published a study made by Robert Kraut and his colleagues from the Carnegie Mellon University about the use of the internet and how it affects the psychological and social lives of its users.
It is better known as the Carnegie Mellon Home Net Project. The research wanted to know the relationship of internet usage and its users’ social environment. The researchers also hoped to find if there are certain psychological consequences in using the internet. The families who participated were from eight different neighborhoods in Pennsylvania and were first time users of the internet. There were 256 participants who agreed to take part in the study but only 169 were able to complete it.
The participants’ families were given a computer, software, free telephone line and free access to the internet in return for tracking their usage, answering surveys and interviews. Those who completed the research had annual household incomes averaging $55,300, more likely to be adults and less lonely. The participants’ internet usage was monitored and they were asked to complete surveys on the 12th and 24th month.
The results showed that teenagers spent more time on the internet compared to adults and that emailing was the top activity. The researchers used factors like the age, gender, race and household income or respondents to analyze the internet usage. They also included family communication, social network, social support and loneliness to find out the friendly behavior of the sample. The findings agreed with the hypothesis because internet usage did result to a small but significant decrease in social involvement based on the participants’ family communication and number of friends. There was also an increase of the loneliness state and depression of the participants.
Although the researchers concluded that their hypothesis was correct, there are still limitations or needed improvements to their study. First of all, there was no separate group of respondents with the same characteristics to show the difference of households without internet usage. Any new interesting activity such as a sport or hobby could have also affected family communication and social interaction the way the internet had. Secondly, the results could have been caused by other factors not included in the report such as the economy or personal problems of the participants.
The results of the study showed that teens used the internet more. Teenagers normally go through a period of self-reflections and adjustments as part of growing up. Loneliness cannot be measured well if this aspect of the research was not compared to another group of participants who are also growing up. Thirdly, the researchers concluded that depression increased with the use of the internet but they could not find any other cause that could have been more affective. Not everything could have been blamed on the internet. Lastly, the number of people in the experiment is too small to generalize.
Another study that made similar conclusions to the one mentioned was made in the year 2000 by the Stanford Institute for the Quantitative Study of Society or better known as Stanford’s SIQSS. It also wanted to strengthen the hypothesis that internet usage isolates individuals by reducing family interaction and social activities. Participants included a random sample of 4,113 individuals coming from 2,689 households. However, the respondents were already internet users who were simply given InterSurvey Web TV set-top box they can use to answer multiple-choice questions. Results showed that time with friends and family became less frequent especially for those who logged on to the internet for more than ten hours a week.
The results also showed that more than ten hours of average use a week tended to cause less time to do phone calls and attend events outside of their homes. Email was also the most popular activity done by the participants. About 15 percent of the participants who averaged an hour a week of use reported working more at home after spending the same time in the office while some also said that they worked additional time in both the home and office since internet use.
With higher internet use, participants also showed less time using other media like television and newspapers. The conclusion was thus that internet isolates people by making them spend less time with personal interaction; that the internet makes people bring more work at home; that internet makes people remain at home, anonymous and lonely.
There are also limitations to this research. First of all, unlike the Home Net Project, this study depended too much on self-reporting by the participants who may not have been well aware of their own time of internet use. Secondly, although social isolation and increased work at home seemed to be related to internet usage, it cannot be concluded as the only reason for the result.
As already said, any new hobby could cause self-absorption and lessen social interaction. Another issue worth thinking about is that emailing is also a form of communication that can replace the face to face activity. One cannot simply say that a person is isolated when he has connected with many others through email. The study could have been more effective if it were done over a longer period of time and if it were using devices to track internet usage instead of self-reporting.
Stanford University Study
Another study was conducted by Christian Cardenas and his colleagues from Stanford University that wanted to study the social lives of the school’s undergraduates based on their use of the internet. They defined social life interaction as an activity that can be interpersonal, through the telephone or by internet chat and email. The researchers predicted that internet usage would be related to less interpersonal time with friends, less phone calls, less hours of sleep, increased isolation and increased procrastination. They also presumed that the mentioned behaviors would be shown by males, technically inclined persons and younger students who would be interested to use the internet more. Lastly, they also predicted that the students who would be isolated by the internet would not be aware of it and would deny it.
The research targeted Stanford’s students because these are highly exposed to the internet. They shared common things such as age, internet connections in their own rooms, classes dependent on online information and lifestyles that prevent them from being with their friends and family. The research was originally given to 800 students who had to answer a survey of multiple-choice and free-response questions. However, misinterpretations of instructions and incompletion of surveys limited the study to only 236 students.
The results showed that the students used the internet for about 24.22 hours per week although the seniors used an average additional hour a day compared to the others. The males also preferred using the internet compared to females but researchers themselves believe this to be because there were more technologically inclined males than females in the university. High internet usage of the techies or those technically inclined indicated these students used the chat software, telephone and visited friends less. Fuzzies or those inclined to the humanities spent more time connecting with others through the telephone and visiting although they still used the chat software even less than the techies. Almost 90 percent stated that they use the internet to procrastinate.
Freshmen played online games more than seniors but the techies also were prone to this activity compared to fuzzy techies or those who claim that they are both humanities and technologically inclined. Almost 25 percent said that they have felt depressed or isolated by the internet and around 40 percent believed that the internet can cause isolation of other people. Over half of the students felt they had friends they would rather email or chat with than voice call or visit personally. The internet communication seems to become a barrier that makes students confine their social lives to the internet instead of improving them by interpersonal contact. However, there were also a lot of responses that contradicted the mentioned results.
Around 82 percent of students felt that the internet connects instead of isolating people. Students who were shown to consume more hours on the internet were also the ones who spent more time using the telephone. The participants also indicated that the internet was a valuable tool of communication with their professors and a cheaper alternative to contacting relatives and friends. The students indicated their appreciation of the email and chat as means of communicating that do not have time zone barriers. The email and chat were also seen as advantageous because it can allow multi-tasking or sending messages to more people at a given time.
However, this also meant that conversations were less intimate because of less focus on just one individual. The researchers realized that although many said that they have friends they would rather email or chat than see face to face, about half of the respondents also indicated that the internet did not pose as a deterrent to their face to face interactions. The researchers conclude that the Home Net Study may be correct in that the internet can cause isolation from social activities. The email and chat may help individuals connect to even more people but these venues of communication may also carry anti-social effects. The researchers also think that individual differences may really play a bigger role in the effect of the internet.
The researchers, although more balance in their views and conclusions, still had many limitations to their study. First of all, the sample was too small to make general conclusions for the larger public. Secondly, the self-reporting technique is not as reliable compared to scientific objective observation. Thirdly, the length of time given was too short. To really understand the effect of a variable such as internet usage, a longer period of time may be needed to find good results.
Social Networking Websites and Teens
Although the three previously discussed studies dug into the effects of the internet on the social interaction of its users, another study aimed to research on the social networking websites that teens visit on the World Wide Web. The sponsor of the case is Pew Internet and American Life Project, a non-partisan, non-profit research center that seeks to study the impact of the internet on social activities. According to Amanda Lenhart and Mary Madden, senior research specialists assigned to the project, 55 percent of online American teenagers join online networking websites where users make their personal networks by connecting himself to other users.
The research was done through phone surveys in the last quarter of the year 2006. They called a random American sample of 935 12 to 17 year olds and their parents to ask about their usage of social networking websites. The results showed that 48 percent of the teens go to these websites everyday or more than once daily.
It also revealed that 70 percent of the girls aged 15 to 17 years old participate in online social network websites compared to only 54 percent of males. Around 91 percent of teens stated that they use the websites to stay in touch with friend who they come face-to-face with often. Only 82 percent told that they used the sites to communicate with friends they have rare opportunities to see. The data also revealed that 72 percent of the teens use the websites to plan social interactions with their friends; only 49 percent use it to meet new people; and only 17 percent use it to flirt.
This research is significant in the sense that it contradicts the Home Net Project and SIQSS because the internet seems to have become an avenue for its users to strengthen their communication with people they already socially see regularly. It seems to agree with the Stanford student survey’s conclusion that the internet is being used as a social tool and may not really cause isolation.
Although it was a phone survey conducted for all parts of the U.S., the random sample size is too little to make generalizations. There were also possibilities of dishonesty on the part of the teens since they knew that their parents would also be interviewed.
The Many Uses of the Internet Apart from Simple Socialization
Businesses have grown since the advent of the internet. Many companies that chose to go global have benefited from the convenience of having access to the internet to communicate among their different branches across the world. Some industries have sprung up like internet shop portals and e-banking financial institutions but there are those like the recording industry that are put at a disadvantage by the World Wide Web.
Online Retail Business. According to the ninth annual report of Forrester Research, an organization that conducts studies of online habits for Shop.org, online retail shopping hit $211.4 billion in 2006. The researchers surveyed 174 retailers.
The report also said that $73.4 billion came from the travel industry while $16.8 billion was contributed by the computer hardware and software sales, $15.9 billion from the auto businesses, $13.8 billion from clothes and accessories, $800 million from make-up and perfume sales and $500 million from pet needs. More so, results showed that 22 percent of offline purchases were due to the internet. Payments were made through different ways which composed 25 percent through credit cards, 25 percent through the company’s own private-label card, 12 percent through third party email payment systems like Paypal, and 9% through eChecks.
Although done for the benefit of a commercial establishment that had their own reasons for conducting the research, the study showed how widely the internet has become part of people’s shopping experiences.
The Internet’s Impact on Business Productivity and Individual Work Habits. . A market research consultancy firm, Socratic Technologies, did a study on the employees of the MCI WorldCom Conferencing, a company that deals with web conferencing. In June 1999, the researchers surveyed 300 qualified business professionals but only finished the study with 281 regarding their web usage. More than fifty percent believe that their companies stand to gain with the use of the internet while 13 percent said that their institutions discouraged it.
It was noted that the internet was used for different things like accessing online maps, getting flight information, finding research about other companies and making hotel reservations. According to 68 percent of the respondents, the internet reduces costs, 63 percent believed that it has improved relationships with their customers, 61 percent said that the need for high cost transportation was lessened, and half of the participants said that the internet had personal benefits like better career satisfaction, work quality and lower stress problems.
The respondents said that they use the internet a lot during traveling. About 43 percent used online banking systems, about 35 percent purchased something online and 26 percent handled their investments through the internet during their trips. A third of the sample population went online for web conferences, 75 percent emailed presentations they needed for meetings, 46 percent chat with their family and employees and 29 percent attended virtual seminars.
Although the survey was not a major scientific study, it provides a peek at what businessmen are doing on the internet and how industries are saving money with the use of the World Wide Web.
Burstek Study on Internet Habits of 10,000+ Users While at Work. In March 2006, another research was published by BNet Business Network that was conducted by Burstek, a company that provides employee internet management solutions. The study was done in 2005 and it examined the work habits of 10,688 employees. According to the study, 78.1 percent of workers went online during working hours for personal purposes which include entertainment, shopping, emailing, chatting, sports news, finding new jobs and playing online video games.
Because of these activities, 19.42 percent of internet use posed a security threat to the company’s computer system and 8.23 percent were prone to legal risks (e.g. pornography, gambling and hate speeches). Government offices composed nearly 23 percent of the random sample that had trouble of employees surfing websites that contained spyware and malicious code which are tools of suspicious individuals to get private information for negative purposes.
Burstek Effective Enterprise Management. In 2006, Burstek, again made a survey on the internet habits of workers in the U.S. According to the statistics of the research, 70 percent of internet pornographic traffic happens during the work time of employees. Only 20 percent of men and 12.5 percent of women admitted to using the company computer to access the internet for pornographic websites while 62 percent of organizations had reports that employees surf sexually explicit sites. The research also proclaimed that roughly 30 to 40 percent of lost worker productivity is because workers use the internet for their personal interests.
The two researches are significant because these show that irresponsible workers can also add to the losses of a company because of the internet. It also gives insight as to how pornography has become more common due to easy access of the World Wide Web.
Motion Picture Of America Piracy Problem (2006). The MPAA released the results of a study of film piracy done by LEK Consulting, a research company for the year 2005. The result of the study was in line with the predictions of another previous study made in 2003 that said the film industry would lose $5.4 billion due to copyright theft by 2005. The actual statistic for the year is roughly around $6.1 billion.
The figures were a summary of the $1.3 billion loss from the U.S. and $4.8 billion from other countries. According to the results, $2.4 billion was lost due to the public sales of illegally copied video materials while $1.4 billion was due to illegal copying by the people themselves and $2.3 billion because of internet piracy. The internet pirates are mostly males aged 16 to 24 years old across the 22 participating countries. It also shows that 71 percent of those who download films in the U.S. are from this age bracket.
Many companies benefited because of communications due to the internet but the film industry is not one of them. The recording industry has also been in turmoil since file sharing over the internet started. Many record companies have sued websites that allow the downloading of songs because of the belief that these are affecting sales.
Harvard and University of California Studies on Music Piracy. In March 2004, Harvard Business School researcher, Felix Oberholzer, and University of California at Chapel Hill’s Koleman Strumpf released their study entitled, “The Effect of File Sharing on Record Sales.” The difficult research was based on a dataset from 0.01 percent of the American downloads compared to the data from U.S. sales of different record albums. The researchers predicted that the outcome of their research would be that downloading of music files from the internet does not affect record sales as music companies claim it does.
The researchers observed the downloading behavior over the internet then matched these to the sale of albums from where the songs have been released. They used technical features such as song lengths and timing such as holidays to see if these are related. They found out that even 5,000 downloads of a certain song will not be able to affect record sales of the particular album. In fact, file sharing has a positive effect on record sales. It was also noted that most of the people who downloaded the files were most probably not going to buy the albums in the first place.
Another aspect of human life that has been very much affected by the internet is education. The academic system has changed since the internet because of the many online courses that are now being offered aside from the easier to access information for research.
Online Nation: Five Years of Growth in Online Learning. The Sloan Consortium, a wide group of institutions and organizations dedicated to ensuring quality education on the internet conducted a study based on survey responses from more than 2,500 colleges and universities from 2006 to 2007.
The results showed that close to 3.5 million students were participating on a web-based course in 2006 and that the 9.7 percent growth in online enrollment exceeded the 1.5 percent of the higher education population growth. This means that almost one-fifth of American higher education students had taken at least one online course in 2006. Among the reasons for going online, universities have said that improving student access was more important compared to reduction of costs. Other reasons include better rate of degree completion and the appeal to non-traditional students.
The Internet and Education Study by Pew Internet & American Life Project. From November 2, 2000 to December 15, 2000, the Princeton Survey Research Associates conducted a survey in behalf of the Pew Internet and American Life Project to find out how the internet helps education. Over all, 754 children and their parents or guardians were the participants. The children were aged 12 to 17 years old. Findings showed that 94 percent of the sample said that they had used the internet to research for school projects and that access to the web helped them in their school work. Around 41 percent have also used the internet to contact their teachers and friends about school work through email and instant messaging.
Online study aids had been downloaded by 34 percent of the participants. Only 18 percent indicated that they knew of someone who cheated a paper or exam via the use of the internet. Websites created for their school had been used by around 58 percent of the respondents and 17 percent admit to creating web pages for at least one school project. According to 87 percent of parents of the participants, they believed that access to the World Wide Web really helped the children with school projects and 93 percent assume that the internet is important for the teens to learn.
There were 55 percent who claim that the internet has a good effect on their children; 6 percent believe that the internet is a bad influence; 38 percent did not notice an effect on the participants. Email has also been used by 28 percent of the parents to communicate with the teachers. Other findings also indicated that 53 percent of the adults had done online research for their own education or job trainings.
These two studies are merely a sample of the many surveys and research conducted that shows that the internet has a profound effect on education and can be used to a student’s advantage.
Video games have been the subject of many arguments because of claims that the usual violent themes affect its players negatively. People can easily participate in these games through the internet and there is a growing concern about how accessible these types of games have become.
According to a study by Dmitri Williams and Marko Skoric published in the Communication Monographs last 2005, results from their research showed that there were no strong effects related to aggression and playing video games. The researchers divided 213 participants and 75 of them were allowed to log on and play Asheron’s Call 2 for an average of 56 hours a month. The other participants became parts of the control group. The study focused on the acceptance of violent behavior by the respondents and the suspected increase of these behaviors on those who were allowed to play. All participants were first timers on online gaming.
The content used was above the average of violence in the common online games and the online players were made to play excessively compared to most. The participants were aged from 14 to 68 years old, educated and from the middle class. The participants were asked to complete questionnaires before and after the games. The Normative Beliefs in Aggression (NOBAGS) general scale was used since it had already been used by other studies to predict short-term effects of television and video games.
The observations were done over a month. The results showed that the older people were more influenced by violent games and that the increase of aggression wears off within an hour or two. These findings show that younger children are not so much affected by the violence in online video games and if they are, the aggressive behavior will be gone in short time.
The study has many limitations. For one, the age gap of the participants is too wide. Secondly, the participants are too few to predict general results. Thirdly, only one game was used for the experiment. There are too many different online games that may have different effects on the gamers.
The research was done by looking for resources based on what the researchers felt were major aspects of human life that are affected by the internet. Journals, new reports and statistics were read to understand the impact of the internet on human life. The researcher also tried to balance studies and views by finding other resources that may contradict what the other literature had said. By finding different views about the issues surrounding internet use, the researcher is able to show that there is still room for improvement so that people will really understand how the internet impacts daily life.
The internet is a very important addition to the ways that people can communicate. Because of this, many aspects of human life have been affected. Many researches have been done to prove the theory that the internet has a bad effect on socialization because it isolates people from their family and friends. However, the internet has been able to develop new ways of getting in touch which contradicts the idea that people become isolated. Emailing and chatting online are just additions to how people can stay updated about others. There may be some truth to the concept that it allows too many things (emotions, reactions) secret from the one a person is communicating with but the way it has been able to bridge problems of distance and time zones cannot be neglected.
Businesses have been opened and those that are already established benefit a lot from the internet because of the new lines of communicating that it has given. It also benefits employers because it saves a lot of money and time due to less paper work the less need for gasoline. However, many people tend to abuse the internet by using it during office hours. Some even do malicious things like logging on to pornographic websites.
Education used to be mostly done in the classroom but the internet has changed this. More and more students are already studying online or are researching online instead of from the library. Parents appreciate that their children can research at home within their control although some still do not discipline their kids enough with internet usage. Even adults are able to get information they need from the internet which makes it a very successful tool for studying.
Entertainment has also benefited from the internet. Many people are able to find music, movies and games that they like over the World Wide Web. However, there are those who pirate the songs and films which makes the recording industry against the internet even if there are studies that show that they should not be affected.
Online video games are also very easy to join once one is on the internet. People are saying that the violence in these games can affect children and its users negatively. Although the study mentioned says it does not affect people badly enough, there are many things that the study needs to improve on so that the researchers can make a better and clearer conclusion.
More studies must be done on how the internet really impacts our lives. The studies could be longer or span around four to five years so that one can really see the difference it makes on social interaction. Studies should also include many participants so that the conclusions can be adapted to the majority of internet users.
The internet has started a revolution in almost every aspect of human life. It has been able to change social interactions between people and has developed new ways of communication that surpasses time and distant barriers. Access to the World Wide Web has also benefited many businesses because of the communication lines it has opened between offices from different parts of the world. It has also reduced the cost of transportation and paper work for many industries.
It has hastened solutions to problems that distance and time used to impose. Entertainment is easier to access through the internet by downloading films, music and games. These may be a threat to intellectual property and the industries that used to thrive out of the sales of these products but more people stand to gain from access to the World Wide Web. Education has been easier to achieve because information and communication with teachers are now just a click away.
The internet is not all good and not all bad at all. Like in most things, proper use and discipline are needed to gain more advantages. The internet is probably one of the best things that happened to this world if people will only use it in moderation.
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