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The Internet is a social technology, but the effect it has on face to face relationships can potentially be very detrimental. Like any activity, the Internet takes up a person’s time; the amount of time varies depending on the person’s level of addiction. Often this time usage could be spent bettering face to face relationships. It is not uncommon for an Internet user to begin to replace their face to face relationships with those formed on the Internet. By doing this they often negatively affect their lives.
The HomeNet Project, a study on the psychological effects done through Carnegie Mellon University, shows that Internet usage often leads to a decline in social groups (Kraut, Lundmark, Patterson, Kiesler, Mukopadhyay, Scherlis). “Long hours spent on-line undercut our local social support network; this isolation promotes psychological trouble” (Stoll). The family is another group that is affected by the Internet. The HomeNet Project also shows that usage is related to declines in family interaction (Kraut). In a society that often tries to push our politicians to focus on family values and expects our phone commercials to incorporate relationships with friends, the Internet may be the opposition. If people are looking to improve their relational bonds with those close to them, they should consider stepping away from the computer screen and spending time with their friends and family.
Many reasons exist as to why the Internet negatively affects face to face relationships. The wasting of time is one; the loss of social skills is another. Social skills are learned through experience and reactions to body language (Stoll). The internet can not provide either of these. Trust is often partly derived from a person’s vulnerability. Without being physically near a person, physical vulnerability is lost and thus so is a great deal of trust (Dreyfus). The computer screen can sometimes act as a shield against the physical vulnerability (Dreyfus). In that way the computer can become a safe haven to those seeking relationships without the hardships of face to face contact.
A marriage guidance organization out of Britain called Relate has found that the Internet may be causing marriage problems and even break- ups (Frean). “Husbands and wives complain of becoming Internet widowers or widows after being left to sit alone as a partner spends hours at the computer messaging strangers in chat rooms, downloading music and games, or looking at pornography” (Frean).
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Tracy Weiss is an example of someone who neglected her face to face relationships for those made on the Internet. She spent at least eighteen hours a day in chat room and ignored her young children to do so. While receiving professional help for her addition she experienced physical withdraw from limiting her Internet use (Walden). Jay Parker, a substance abuse consular and a cofounder of Internet- Computer Addiction Services in Redmond, Washington, said, “Computer addicts are known to develop a tolerance level and mimic drug and alcohol addicts – and other compulsives – when they try to quit” (Walden). Internet addiction is not an uncommon occurrence. “Kimberly Young, executive director of the Center for On-line Addiction in Bradford, Pa., said between 5 and 10 percent of Internet users are addicted to their machines” (Walden).
Addiction to the Internet is a very real threat to many users. People become addicted for many reasons including using games, shopping, looking at pornography, chatting to other users, and many more (Walden). Jay Parker says that time spent online may lead to depression (Walden). This depression may be a direct result of the Internet’s impending affect on face to face relationships.
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Frean, Alexandra. “Internet blamed for break- ups.” The Times 15 Apr. 2002: 7 pars. Newspaper Source. Online. 2 Nov. 2002. .
Kraut, Robert., Vicki Lundmark, Michael Patterson, Sara Kiesler, Tridas Mukopadhyay, and William Scherlis. “Internet Paradox: A Social Technology That Reduces Social Involvement and Psychological Well- Being?.” American Psychologist. 53.9 (Sept. 1998): 1017 -1031. 10 Oct. 2002 .
Stoll, Clifford. High- Tech Heretic: Reflections of a Computer Contrarian. New York: Anchor Books, 1999.
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Walden, Aydrea. “Center helps those hooked on Internet.” The Seattle Times 5 Feb. 2002: 32 pars. Newspaper Source. Online. 2 Nov. 2002. < http://web17.epnet.com/citation.asp?tb=1&_ug=dbs+4+ln+en%2Dus+sid+9EAFF870%2D908A%2D4BA1%2D8177%2D483649B11267%40Sessionmgr6+41FD&_us=bs+Center++helps++those++hooked++on++Internet+db+4+ds+Center++helps++those++hooked++on++Internet+dstb+KS+hd+0+hs+0+or+Date+ri+KAAACBZB00032429+sm+KS+so+b+ss+SO+6396&fn=1&rn=1>.