Thursday, January 26, 2006

People Are People Even In The Internet Age

Back when email and the internet were just starting to penetrate general society some commenters sounded an alarm. Their concerns were that internet users would withdraw into themselves and into a virtual reality world without personal contact with other people.

A new study puts those fears to rest and suggests that internet users are even more connected to others than non-internet users. (Story here.)

This should not surprise.

The internet's design compels its users to interact with the rest of the world. The internet connects people to websites and people all around the world. With the mere click of a mouse a person in San Diego can read a news website published in the Persian Gulf, for example. (Here.) Email enables people to communicate easily with other people in their neighborhood, around the country, and around the world. List-serves bring people together who share common interests and enable them to arrange meetings in the real world with people they might never have met before the advent of the internet.

In fact, what the internet has done is not to drive people inward and away from other people, it has enabled users to have contact with more people and to learn more about the outside world easier than ever before. The internet is driving the world towards a future where the entire planet is our neighborhood.

The experts who worried about the internet leading to personal alienation did not understand people or the technology. They were also subjects of the "tyranny of either-or thinking." (Other examples here and here.) To either-or thinkers the internet presented a stark choice between technology and people. To both-and people the internet did not present that choice. They could both have the new technology and interact with people. Turns out that more people think "both-and" than "either-or."


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