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361 comments

Did they consider (5, Insightful)

idonthack (883680) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597307)

That maybe people use the Internet because they don't have any friends?

Re:Did they consider (5, Interesting)

Bastian227 (107667) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597352)

Or is it the lack of close friends is to blame for the Internet?

Re:Did they consider (5, Funny)

Kagura (843695) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597412)

... researchers are citing the Internet as one of the main contributing factors to a shrinking of social networks among Americans.

What are you talking about? I've got 89,402,390 people in my social network! This internet thing is great!

Re:Did they consider (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#15597376)

Who needs friends when you've got gay niggers?

Re:Did they consider (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#15597483)

But the Internet is important! It says right up at the top, "News for nerds. Stuff that matters." See?! See?! That's proof enough, right?

First post? Hello? (-1, Offtopic)

eck011219 (851729) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597308)

Anyone here? Hm ... I guess it's accurate.

Re:First post? Hello? (1, Funny)

NosTROLLdamus (979044) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597415)

Hey man! What's up?

Yeah, I've been feeling kinda shitty lately, really unmotivated. I slept in to 12:30 today, because I really didnt' have anything to do. Some of my friends called a little while earlier, but they didn't leave a number, and I don't really feel like tracking them down.

I'd probably feel out of place anyway, I've been feeling like that more and more, It just seems like everyone else is so busy, and no matter how hard I try I accomplish nothing, plus there's that whole "issue" with...

Yeah, you guessed it. Isn't that fucked up? He could go to jail, you know, and the wierdest thing is that no on talks about it, it just sits there staring us right in the face.

Yeah, I haven't even signed up for classes yet either... I have on year left on a fucking liberal arts degree, I mean, I'm sure I could transfer the credits over and get a four year degree, but in what? Every job I get makes me want to bash my fucking brains out... Maybe something part time so I can spend it doing the things I like, IF I EVER GET FUCKING MOTIVATED ENOUGHT TO DO THEM. I dunno, I just don't want to be one of those guys who comes home and stares at the tv for a few hours, goes to bed, and repeats the ordeal everday. Lame.

Well, I guess I better eat. Maybe I'll get to those shirt designs today... I should probably get on that. Catch you later, eck011219.

I've said it before... (5, Funny)

FSWKU (551325) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597309)

... and I'll say it again. Where can I get giant bags of cash to study the blindingly obvious?

Or the blindingly obviously false? (3, Insightful)

Mateo_LeFou (859634) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597397)

Plenty of corp's, PACs, and other orgs will shell out for "studies" and "papers" that say whatever they need said in order to entice investors/policymakers toward their ends. It's a whole industry in its own right.

Imagine a beowulf cluster of friends. (5, Funny)

ABeowulfCluster (854634) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597310)

That would be cool. I'd settle for one or two friends though.

Re:Imagine a beowulf cluster of friends. (4, Funny)

eclectro (227083) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597431)

That would be cool. I'd settle for one or two friends though.

You know what would even be cooler?? If one of those friends was a girl.

Re:Imagine a beowulf cluster of friends. (1)

pilot1 (610480) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597509)

You know what would even be cooler?? If one of those friends was a girl.

Oh come on, be realistic.

Re:Imagine a beowulf cluster of friends. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#15597559)

But.. do they run linux?

Uh... okay, sure (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#15597312)

Meanwhile [websiteoptimization.com]

25% of America has no access to the internet at all.

A further 30% of America lacks broadband, which often restricts how much one can rely on the internet in a protracted fashion.

But, yeah, sure, if America is significantly lessened in people that they can talk to, feel close to, or trust in the last twenty years, let's go ahead and blame the Internet...

Mod parent up... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#15597356)

Maybe the article just got it wrong and the paper actually makes valid points, but the assertion that comparing data from 1985 and 2004 can tell us anything about the Internet's effect on socialization is absurd. That data and those time periods can't even show a correlation, much less causation. Perhaps if they had studied data from 1985 to2004 and related it to the amount of internet access for those time periods (or better yet, actually studied differences between those with internet access and those without) then there would be a story. Otherwise, this is just an absurd claim completely unsubtantiated by any facts (much less my own personal experience).

Re:Uh... okay, sure (4, Insightful)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597371)

I've got to agree ... bogus article alert time.

People say they have fewer people they can talk to about important stuff, even if they are talking to lots more people from all over the place about unimportant stuff online."

Maybe people are talking about important stuff more than ever, but doing it behind the anonymity or convenience of blogs?

People who say they have dozens or hundreds of close friends in real life don't know the meaning of the term "close friends". A close friend is one you could tell anything, and their response is "how can I help?" Want an easy 20-second test of whether someone is really a close friend or just an acquaintance? Tell them you want to get a sex change and watch their reaction.

Re:Uh... okay, sure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#15597466)

So you are suggesting lying to someone to see if they are a close friend.
Perhaps if you are willing to lie to them you are not their close friend.

Re:Uh... okay, sure (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597646)

Who said anything about lying :-)

We all know you posted AC because, deep down, you really want to ...

... come on, fess up.

Seriously, you've never lied? Bullshit. Or, when someone asks "Does this dress make me look fat?" do you answer "It's not the dress."

Re:Uh... okay, sure (1)

giorgiofr (887762) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597508)

And what kind of test would that be? First of all, the moment you need to test someone like that, you know he's not a true friend or you wouldn't be doubting him. Secondly, what reaction would make him pass/fail the test? "OMG WTF are you sure?" might indicate total acceptance just as well as mere disinterest ("go on, like I care"). "What the hell do you think you're doing, you freak?!" might indicate deep interest and worry just as well as mere homophobia.
The real "test" for friendhsip is called LIFE and if anyone needs this explained, I feel sorry for him.

Re:Uh... okay, sure (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597619)

I was going to point out that if you had doubts about their support in such a case, it says more about how you feel than anything else, but I didn't want to obscure the point of the post, which is that there's a big difference between how real friends would react, compared to acquaintances.

Re:Uh... okay, sure (1)

WilliamSChips (793741) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597456)

The Luddites are just looking for a way to blame all their ills on the internet so that they can slow down technological progress.

Well (2, Insightful)

hsmith (818216) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597317)

I would think that most people that "rely" on the internets to make friends typically are the outcasts that don't have loads of friends. I hang out with a lot of people, but still know plenty from the internet alone.

I don't think just knowing people by the net and never meeting them is healthy. You need human to human interaction.

Ob. bash quote (4, Funny)

slushdork (566514) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597327)

<H0ley> Its like if you want to get a mate now a days, one has to get a myspace.
<H0ley> What ever happened to getting to know people and dates and crap.
<H0ley> Screw this profile crap.
<H0ley> Everyone is trying to profile each other.
<H0ley> Freaking meat-markets.
<L4m3r> Dogs leave piles of crap for each other. We have Myspace.

I don't know about this... (1)

demongeek (977698) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597333)

Look at all of the psychopathic kids who go online to "talk" about their problems with others of similar like mind. I also know of kids who are young who have pen pals from other countries that were made through school connections. These friendships have blossomed over the years, even though the program was terminated.

Perhaps the individuals they are studying are the uncomfortable middle "class" of internet citizens, those who have not grown up as the foggies have (making real-life friends and pretty much disclaiming the Internet as a form of intimate communication), or the young'uns who are mySpacing their entire lives to people they have never even text-messaged...

Re:I don't know about this... (1)

Homology (639438) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597512)

Look at all of the psychopathic kids who go online to "talk" about their problems with others of similar like mind.

I think that you are just talking out of your arse. A psychopath does not go online unless it is maintainh/create control, and I find it difficult to believe that any medcial proffesional would encourage such a "mailinglist". Of course, any psychopath is unlikely to participate in the first place ;-) If you want to have examples of modern day psycopaths, have a look at part of former Enron mangement.

Personal experience (1)

Mikachu (972457) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597337)

I can say from personal experience that online friends can be just as close as ones you know personally.

Having said that, there is still a major difference between online and offline friends. You certainly can't go without offline friends and life your life on the internet. Also, it always makes your relationship closer to know the friend personally. But the internet is certainly not to blame for peoples' inability to get close to one another. It just gives another outlet.

Re:Personal experience (2, Interesting)

MsGeek (162936) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597424)

Some of my best real-life friends were people I initially met on the Internet, or before that, on BBSes. Seriously.

Re:Personal experience (1)

jones_supa (887896) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597482)

Same here. Actually all of them are. I've been quite lonely and meeting local people IRL has been too tricky. Only problem now is that most of the people I know live in the Helsinki area so it always takes a 50km bus trip from here to join the meetings...

Flipside (2, Interesting)

Chysn (898420) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597347)

As unfortunate as that trend is, it seems to go along with another possibly related thing: folks are putting more and more personal information on their networking sites and blogs, things that they'd be embarassed to tell a "real" friend and downright insane to tell an employer. Off the internet you might not have many CLOSE friends, but on the internet everyone is your BEST friend.

Alienation (5, Interesting)

El_Isma (979791) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597357)

I believe that the problem is not Internet, but the increase in population. I have lived in small cities and big ones, and seen other even bigger cities, and you can really feel the difference. In small towns people are friendlier, more relaxed. For instance, you may say 'hi' to anyone you cross in the street and it won't be seen as something strange (in even smaller towns -rural areas- it's more like you must say hi, even if you don't know the other person). In bigger cities, on the other hand, you can feel the distance from other people. It's much more colder. Think Japan, loads of people all together but they try to avoid contact with each other. The "personal space" is a few centimetres around you... The bigger the city, the worse the problem is. Another thing I have seen is that people in bigger cities ignore unknown people more easly. In those cities I've heard other people talk about personal matters without minding who might hear them. In my home town that would be quite undiscrete and considered bad manners. That's my opinion, anyway :)

Re:Alienation (4, Interesting)

radicalsubversiv (558571) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597488)

I have a hard time buying this. A quick glance at population growth in the U.S. over the last hundred years [census.gov] reveals that we're really not growing all that fast at the moment -- in the 1950s -- which social scientists note for a very high degree of civic engagement -- population was routinely growing at almost 2% a year. But for the past ten years, it's been less than 1%. Moreover, with birth rates at historic lows, much of the population increase we're seeing is coming from immigration -- communities which by necessity are characterized by dense social networks.

If there's a culprit to be found in population patterns and geographic movements, it's not so much in urbanization (most cities have been losing people over the last few decades) -- as in suburbanization -- a pattern of life which is characterized by atomization and long commute times, leading Robert Putnam (author of Bowling Alone) speaks of a "sprawl civic penalty".

Re:Alienation (1)

shis-ka-bob (595298) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597499)

Population increase doesn't apply much to the US over the last 25 years. Our population has been rather stable. You might want to argue that there has been an increase in urbanization. That has certainly been the case in Iowa, which is my home state. Rural communities have been shrinking and the suburbs have been growing. Personally, I think this is closer to the truth. In the burbs, you cannot walk or bicycle like I did as a child in a town of 10,000. The population density in the burbs means that schools are often a few miles away, rather than within a reasonable walking distance.

Stop passing the buck (5, Insightful)

Wellington Grey (942717) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597358)

Let's put the blame where it belongs: I have less close friends because I spend too much time on the internet. It's not like the internet's fault, it's mine for taking the easy option.

-Grey [wellingtongrey.net]

Re:Stop passing the buck (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#15597444)

It's not anyone's fault. You're doing what you want to do, right? I spend a decent chunk of time on the internet because it's better than having a lot of friends - having more than a couple of friends is more effort than it's worth, IMO.

I have more close friends (2, Informative)

nahdude812 (88157) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597364)

Maybe I'm not the demographic being described by the article, but I believe I have more close friends than I would w/o the Internet. I have my real life friends, some of whom have been my friends for more than half my life, and I have close friends I met online, and only know from online. Some of these people I've never met in real life, yet I'm comfortable enough to confide in them and look to them for advice.

I don't use MySpace, I don't participate in social networking sites, yet I've still managed to encounter other minds like mine; minds I can learn from, and minds I can teach. Having an online life doesn't preclude me from having an offline life, and indeed they supplement each other.

Finally, the Internet has greatly facilitated maintaining offline friendships that would have dissolved for geographic reasons. These friendships have moved online, and if not for the Internet, we might write a letter once a month or so. Instead I talk to these people daily. We also game together, so on a typical Friday night, a half dozen of my real life (offline) friends and I meet up and slay Onyxia or run Molten Core together when it would be logistically infeasible for us to meet in person.

Yes!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#15597372)

I just knew that dadblasted internet would get caught -- it came around my place back in '97, held me at gunpoint and forced me to buy a connection. Nine years later, NO FRIENDS!!!
DAMN YOU, INTERNET!
DAMN YOU TO HELL!!!

Different in Norway, perhaps (1)

Nichotin (794369) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597379)

I live in Norway, and the vast majority of my really close friends, are people I first met on various internet communities. Since Norway is a small country, where many live within range of each other, social gatherings are common among us, in addition to the lan partys that are arranged every year where I meet even more people that I have talked online with. After a few meetings with pot and alchohol, you start meeting the same people one-to-one or in smaller and smaller groups, just to hang out, talk or do some project together.
Probably different in bigger countries, where meeting would require a days travel, or for people who hang out at more international communities.

Re:Different in Norway, perhaps (1)

pedantic bore (740196) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597409)

After a few meetings with pot and alchohol, you start meeting the same people one-to-one or in smaller and smaller groups...

Yeah, in the US we call that "jail".

Actually I'm just envious because most of the people I've met on the Internet are either looking for help with debugging some piece of code I touched ten years ago, or Brazillians looking for Orkut hookups, or both. I've never met any of these people face to face. That would be a nice change. As long as beer and pot weren't required.

Re:Different in Norway, perhaps (1)

Nichotin (794369) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597432)

I was just trying to illustrate that I do the same things on the social gatherings with online friends, as with my offline-only friends. Hence the pot and alcohol bit. To be honest, we do a lot of other stuff too, like going bowling, seeing a good movie, etc.

Internet + reality TV = ? (1)

pedantic bore (740196) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597380)

(besides "profit", of course...)

What else would you expect, given that most people access reality through a computer or TV screen? Why ask a person when you can ask [ask.com] a computer? Why deal with ordinary people in your neighborhood when you can risklessly gape at people who are much more beautiful [cnn.com] or who lead more exciting [theocshow.com] or important [nbc.com] lives, or perhaps take comfort in the fact that you can always find abundant reinforcement [slashdot.org] for your choices online?

And here I am, typing this, while my kids are playing in the other room, inventing a much more exciting world, which I am welcome to join. Gotta go!

not true (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#15597382)

This isn't true at all! A lot of popular kids use the internet to talk to all their popular friends. The internets enables people to socialize and make more friends. It's not just for social outcassts. Many of my friends have met their boyfriends/girlfriends online. Look at myspace and facebook. These aren't just superficial friendships.

I work in teh Internets .... (1)

icepick72 (834363) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597386)

...sit in from of the computer a lot (right now for example) ...
No bath necessary.
Ex-friends say it's because of how bad I smell you insensitive clod!

Internet, yes, but other factors too. (5, Insightful)

aussersterne (212916) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597387)

I find that the hollowness of American social life is not only due to the Internet, but to a growing American utilitarianism and sense of entitlement that stretches into personal relationships.

Friends and would-be lovers alike are more and more forming and maintaining friendships on the basis of "What is this person doing for me right now?"

If someone isn't making them a profit, or is (gasp) taking their time or effort without a mechanically measurable payoff of some kind, people are only too ready these days to "kick them to the curb" and look for friends who are profitable or represent a measurable gain of some kind, whether in prestige or job prospects or exclusive memberships or exploitable expertise/skills.

This mentality of "everything has a price and can be calculated as a cost-benefit" has already ruled American material life for years and led to a kind of spiritual bankruptcy that leads to cults, sappy new-ageism, under/overeducation, and other strange social pathologies and now it is polluting our social lives as well.

When everyone is busy being a self-interested climber in their relationships, is is any wonder that nobody seems to be able to find non-selfish-climber friends? When everyone is busy sensing that they are entitled to their opinion, their time, their wishes, their preferences without the need for discussion or compromise, is it any wonder that people suddenly find that no-one is willing to compromise or have patience with them?

It gets to the point that you socialize on the Internet merely because the stakes are lower. You're less likely to get screwed or hurt or exploited and at the same time you can justify the time expenditure to others because "spending time online" appeals more to the protestant ethic of endless "useful" labor than does a phrase like "hanging out with some friends at the bar."

People are working all the time, their social relations have now become part of work too, calculated like work, and so they are finding that relationships feel like work and are subject to all of the risks and pitfalls that occur in the workplace.

The solutions? Stop bringing work home, set aside time to be "home," don't try to measure what other people are doing for you, only what you are doing for other people, and try not to take it personally when people "kick you to the curb" for not being productive enough or razz you for being a "slacker" and not leaving work at 8:30 PM to bring it home and pound on it with some climber friends from the office until 1:30 AM while calling it a "social life."

Re:Internet, yes, but other factors too. (1, Flamebait)

Robotron23 (832528) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597533)

Fluffy commentary my good man; and worthy of a column in a local newspaper. However like said columns it is more a sophisticated whine - with petty vague solutions stretched in meticulous fashion to fit everybody.

Well here's the news: "Everybody" cannot be cohengently administered or instructed to change their lives; not "everybody" can swallow their pride and simply attempt to negate this implied "greed" culture of which you speak; some people are naturally ostentatious and extroverted - others, not so much:

"This mentality of "everything has a price and can be calculated as a cost-benefit" has already ruled American material life for years and led to a kind of spiritual bankruptcy that leads to cults, sappy new-ageism, under/overeducation, and other strange social pathologies and now it is polluting our social lives as well."

Really? What is your philosophical alternative then - that is, assuming you had one when you typed this fuzzy diatribe? It is really so ubiquitous across society? You criticize materialism; and accuse consumerism of breeding nefarious organizations and fail to back it up with hard facts or evidence. Prose like this is lapped up by your own condemned "sappy new agers" - it is attacking but in such a morosely vague way that refuting it is hardly worth the bother.

It is like a troll but without the subdued malice; has the same characteristics of a good troll: The sensical if somewhat fallacious criticisms; the broad assertions and lastly the botched solutions - few would doubt you meant well by this post and simply wanted to make a point; as said it'd be good in some publications. However you cannot make baseless accusations of an entire phenomena and imply causation of all the awful phenomena. I eagerly await a non-hostile, civil response which cogently argues your points beyond the tragedian confines of your current mind; find evidence and make us all believe what you say has some reality behind it.

A closing point; people like you worsen this problem - it is through these pseudo-intelectual rants that Slashdot's cynicism has been refined to a point where it has a sophisty about it. It is more simplistically pleasing to read /. today merely due to this evolution. If persons like yourself stopped writing this then perhaps the world would be a better place? How about thinking more about the consequences of your own actions as opposed to wailing about the crying shame that our postmodern world is in those watery eyes of yours? This is not a flame; nor a troll - back in University they called this a fair rebuke.

Re:Internet, yes, but other factors too. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#15597604)

You spelt intellectual incorrectly. Retard.

Re:Internet, yes, but other factors too. (4, Insightful)

aussersterne (212916) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597615)

Really? What is your philosophical alternative then


After you descend into ad hominem, you make my point for me. You appeal to systematization by way of criticism against a post whose premise is that systematization is not always in order!

The absolute need to elucidate a philosophical alternative to a polemic against elucidatable orders speaks to the enlightenment-centric mentality that all that is must be measurable or it simply isn't, which is precisely the state of affairs I was bemoaning in my post.

My alternative is not philosophical, it is material, and it is not argument but rather deed: self-sacrifice in the interest of making others happier. That is my solution, and I don't appeal to logic to justify it because my polemic is precisely that logic is an inappropriate metric for feeling. I freely admit that I have no measurable justification. I make no incremental, falsifiable argument to buttress the point, because to do so is to concede from the start precisely what I seek to contradict: that all virtues or all things of merit must first be elucidated and second measured, whether measured in isolation or measured against.

Measurement is the problem here. Yes, the enlightenment brought us from the middle ages to the era of laser eye surgery, but its methods have limits and those limits are reached at the boundary of meaning, because meaning is an undefinable abstraction that has thus far only ever been expressed and sought, but as of yet never actually defined for all our work on the subject across disciplines from the behavioral sciences through the hard sciences. There is ample empirical evidence everywhere you look for the inability of modernism and enlightenment thinking to come to terms with meaning: Al Qaeda, Columbine, Heaven's Gate, Obesity, American Idol, plastic surgery, Internet friendships, and on and on. I do not propose to attempt a measurable linkage between these and lack of meaning, either. You'll just have to deal with that, as will readers.

To seek to apply rigor to the notion of life's "meaning" (which is, after all, fundamentally related to friendship and to work and to mortality) is to fail. Or at least, no-one has thus far succeeded in any commonly accepted way.

So in short, I refuse to make a logical argument to support my point that logical arguments are the wrong metric to use when discussion relationships because to do so is to subvert the point to begin with. Indeed, the need to move beyond logic in relationships is the point, and I happily concede that without logic there is not currently a commonly accepted means by which to make any appeal at all, regarding feelings and friendships or anything else. But that is the nature of things: when you dismiss all that is, you must face all that as of yet isn't.

But I reiterate my claim: cost-benefit analyses and cogent arguments are by definition constrained and framed by that selfsame worldview that I made my post in order to accuse, and beyond this, I suspect that many here would agree with me: that to apply logic and method to your relationships is to get only logic and method back from them. And that is the problem. I and many others want irrational things from friendship: people who are there for me even when I don't deserve it, people that I enjoy even though they don't add to my wealth or prestige, company that I want to keep even though it will all be meaningless when I am dead.

I can not make arguments for any of these needs, under any system of thought or belief, or by any standard or method of measurement. But that does not by any means make them weaker. I need them, and so do others. And increasingly, we don't have them.

Re:Internet, yes, but other factors too. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#15597542)

I find that the hollowness of American social life is not only due to the Internet, but to a growing American utilitarianism and sense of entitlement that stretches into personal relationships.


why is it that everyone who has a bold new take on American life/culture are people who live nowhere near it? or in San Francisco

Re:Internet, yes, but other factors too. (1)

aussersterne (212916) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597626)

I have lived in:

San Francisco (yes, east bay)
Chicago (south side)
Los Angeles (northern burbs)
Salt Lake City (downtown)
Portland (hillsboro area)

I have also visited over two-thirds of the 50 states, and much of that time not on the interstate system.

I haven't yet lived in or visited New York City but will be moving there later this year. I'll let you know.

Re:Internet, yes, but other factors too. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#15597611)

I find that the hollowness of American social life is not only due to the Internet, but to a growing American utilitarianism and sense of entitlement that stretches into personal relationships.

Interesting analysis. Just curious, what part of America do you live in which provides you with such great insight?

Re:Internet, yes, but other factors too. (1)

aussersterne (212916) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597639)

Right now I live in Salt Lake City. In 2003 I lived in Chicago. In 2004 in the Portland area. In 2005 in Los Angeles. Next year I will be living either in Manhattan or on the Jersey shore (I am currently finding a place).

I 100% Agree (5, Insightful)

Psx29 (538840) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597398)

I use the internet as a crutch for my non-existant social life. And after all these years it's finally wearing me down.

Re:I 100% Agree (2, Insightful)

wonkobeeblebrox (983151) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597511)

I think it is more that the internet removes barriers and allows you to be more who you really are. E.G: if you are naturally really social, then the internet allows you to really be more social by allowing you interact with lots of people; whereas, if you are really anti-social, it also allows you to interact with really few quantities of people, and thus allows you to be more anti-social.

That being said, I still think there is an inverse relationship between the quantity of conversation and the quality of it.

Technology..... (4, Insightful)

ZoneGray (168419) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597408)

Technoligy in general seems to contrubute to the breakup of traditional social structures. Air travel changed a lot of things in the 50's & 60's, allowing people to relocate about the country.... before then, most people just lived in the city where they were born, and relationships ran long and deep.

Now, phones, TV, the Internet... they all direct our communication and our association away from older models. Musicians who used to hang out at the same nightclub now link to each other on MySpace. It's great that they can do it, but there was something better about the old way.

The one redeeming quality of socialism (if socialists would recognize it), is that it promotes a notion of community as opposed to the depersonalization and fragmentation of our relationships that advancing technology (fueled by capitalism and freedom) promotes. As old concepts like neighborhoods, towns, churches decline in influence, people feel the need for stronger communal associations. Government at various levels can fulfil some of that need, however poorly.

I believe the increasing size of the US gov't (as a percentage of GDP) over time is a reflection of the very same needs. The blessing of the US is that this is happening at a relatively slow and controlled pace over a period of decades. I love freedom and technology, but... well, here I am on the Internet instead of arguing with some friends at a lunch counter.

Re:Technology..... (1)

aussersterne (212916) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597519)

The one redeeming quality of socialism (if socialists would recognize it), is that it promotes a notion of community as opposed to the depersonalization and fragmentation of our relationships


If you consult The German Ideology and other non-Das-Kapital works by Marx, you'll find that this is the philosophical underpinning of fundamental socialism and communism--the belief that no matter what other consequences socialism/communism do or don't bring, they're more likely to lead to meaningful relationships, meaningful labor, and thus meaningful living, than other systems of political-economics.

People dismiss statements like "comrades in suffering are comrades indeed" but it's true to some point and many in the modern world are discovering it: you can be alone with your hummer, your mansion, your jewels, your swimming pool, and your twelve degrees, but you're still alone, and many would trade all of it just to have a real friend or two and a reason to wake up tomorrow. We'll all die. You can't take it with you. If you're busy being alone to earn it, you're never getting those years back.

More mobile population (4, Insightful)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597421)

I think it has more to do with the mobility of the population than the internet. How many more people these days are moving multiple times in their career, away from friends and family? I know I have twice in the past decade. Distance breaks up friendships, even in these days of the internet.

Re:More mobile population (1)

radicalsubversiv (558571) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597567)

I hate to continue being the naysayer on this thread, but this almost certainly isn't true, because -- contrary to popular belief -- Americans today aren't any more mobile than they used to be.

From Bowling Alone, Robert Putnam's well-researched work on the "collapse of American community:

... for people as for plants, frequent repotting disrupts root systems. It takes time for a mobile individual to put down new roots. As a result, residential stability is strongly associated with civic engagement. Recent arrivals in any community are ... less likely to have supportive networks of friends and neighbors. ...
Could rising mobility thus be the central villain of our mystery? The answer is unequivocal: No. Residential mobility can be entirely exonerated from any responsibility for our fading civic engagement, because mobility has not increased at all over the last fifty years. In fact, census reocrds show that both long-distance and short-distance mobility have slightly declined over the last five decades. (pg204-205)

Makes sense...for some... (2, Interesting)

EMacAonghusa (929754) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597422)

It makes sense I think. For many people the internet & it's social communities offer a release. There's just so many more people you can meet online and communicate with. Freindships are formed quickly as it's easy, through various online social groups, to find others with very similar interests to yourself ... which may not always be possible depending on where you live. I think this is the key, personally. On the other hand, it's not a black and white thing and it really depends on the type of person you are. I've met tons of ppl online and i've met many of those personally and we've become strong friends. But I still have my real life friends, those same people who've been these for me for 15-20 years.

I have plenty of friends! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#15597429)

H4ck3r214, ODDRAGE, Vader001, ILoveSoy, MagicGRAPE, and Centurion just to name a few!

Hokum! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#15597437)

The article is pure hokum! I have 4,294 friends, as evidenced by myspace.com

I'm lonely! I need friends! (0, Redundant)

Bob Cat - NYMPHS (313647) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597443)

Please, I'm desperate! Click on that thingy by this comment so my life will become fulfilling! NO NOT THAT ONE!!!! ARGGGHHH!

No contest (1)

anicca (819551) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597452)

What is more stimulating? Erudite scholars pushing the envelopes, posting thoughtful informative content on a wide range of interesting subjects... or who the new cast member on Friends is and who they screwed? Likely the people who have no friends just have IQs that dwarf those around them making inteligent conversation impossible.

Re:No contest (1)

fyngyrz (762201) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597586)

Likely the people who have no friends just have IQs that dwarf those around them making inteligent conversation impossible.

Perhaps not *the* factor, but certainly *a* factor.

I live in a small town in Montana. Aside from my significant other and one "local" fellow we are friends with, issues suitable for discussion with the citizens here aren't exactly technically involved or philosophically intriguing. In a town of about 5,000, the "meat" social life supports about 20 bars and 20 churches. The Internet looks mighty good in comparison to either. That, and a collection of cats, who seem to be generally smarter than my neighbors as well.

Mabey the internet isn't to blame (1)

S.P.B.Wylie (983357) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597469)

Mabey it is long work hours: sited from http://www.braunconsulting.com/bcg/newsletters/win t2000.html [braunconsulting.com] In a report last year by the International Labor Organization it was shown that U.S. workers averaged nearly 2,000 hours of work every year. (40 hours per week x 52 weeks = 2,080 hours.) This compares to other workforces in other countries working fewer hours than we do. For example, on average U.S. workers spend 70 hours more per year on the job than their Japanese counterparts, and nearly 350 hours per year more than Europeans. This equates to nearly 10 more weeks of work per year. People work to hard and work too long. People seem to know that life isn't about work, yet them work longer and longer. We have to come to the realization that wealth can be better mesured though friendships than who has a bigger car.

NONSENSE!! (1)

Jerry (6400) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597476)

I increased the number of people I call friends immeasurably because of the Internet. I may never meet them face to face, but we communicate directly and via forums almost on a daily basis.

And, thanks to the Internet, I keep closer contact with family members living else where. Also, thanks to the Internet, I have reestablished connnections with folks whom I haven't heard from in more than 30 years,or longer.

If anything, the Internet has brought the world closer together and we are all finding out that there is more that unites us than divides us.

I disagree (1)

RyoShin (610051) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597478)

I've been a regular internet user since... oh, probably 1998 or so. Back then it was just using chat rooms at Yahoo! and working on a website on Fortunecity. Now-a-days I'm more heavily into it, participating on multiple forums covering a range of issues as well as working on my own websites (as well as others.)

However, I believe I have a rather large social network. The only thing is that it's all online. I am a rather shy person in real life, and somewhat afraid of meeting new people, so I only have two or so actual friends. However, the anonymity offered by the internet gives me an extra layer of protection- if I fuck up somewhere, I just need to leave and come back with a new handle and e-mail address, and no one is the wiser. It allows me to completely start over if I feel the need.

Not that I've had to do so. Through my many stints on various sites, some gone, some still here, I have amassed quite a few online friends that I can talk to, some about important things. I would say that the Internet is a massive benefit to my social network growth.

Now, I may be the exception rather than the rule. I know a lot of people who prefer face-to-face communication over mail or IM. If all that's happening is discussion, I really don't see the difference. In fact, if all that's happening is discussion, I much prefer IM over face-to-face chat or even a phone call- you don't have to repeat yourself, you can "talk" while someone else is talking and not get in the way, and if you have to do something for a few minutes, you can simply scroll through the chat window to see what you were talking about when you get back (assuming you have some short-term memory problems, like I do.)

Regardless, while Average Joe may be intimidated by these elctro-ma-whos-its, those like myself, who are withdrawn, or those who are picked on in school are given new social life thanks to the internet, which can be a saving grace. If I hadn't had the internet to fall back on during my years of being bullied in school, I probably would have snapped.

NO. MODERN WAY OF CORPORATE LIVING (1)

unity100 (970058) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597484)

with all its 'career' concerns, and in addition, the general 'do-well materially' understanding of times are to blame.

My closest friend, for over 16+ years now, lives a 15 minutes walk to me. Yet, we do not see each other.

He goes to work, goes back home. Goes to work, goes back home. This is the way with most friends nowadays.

The internet, on the contrary, have awarded me many close friends that i could not hope to find via normal means - intellectuality, humor, manners, philosopy merged in one pot.

Many factors (1)

debrain (29228) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597487)

I have close friends on every continent except Antarctica, and their long-distance friendship persists only because we can communicate over the internet.

I believe that the lack of close friendships in Western societies could be related to the internet, that the internet permits us to meet our most basic and fundamental psychological needs online. Once these basic needs are met, we lose our incentive to overcome the challenges to find and foster more rich and fruitful personal relationships. Why go out, when all you need is at your fingertips?

The point about entitlement here is quite relevant too, I believe. The substitute of money for happiness in consumer society takes away from the perceived benefit of friendship.

Of course, there are surely many more factors to consider, but these probably do contribute.

More complicated than that. (1)

cvd6262 (180823) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597495)

I heard about the study earlier in the week, and I realized a) I don't need close friends (as they define it) and b) I do have "meaningful" discussions online about "important" matters.

On point A, I know there are others (my wife being one of them) who crave human interaction with like-minded people, and require vicinity as part of their definition. For those people, I hope this study opens avenues to help them compensate for this need in our ever-closing world.

On point B, I think those who will suffer the most - as our "connected" world makes us more and more disconnected from those around us - are those who do not know how to (or can't for other reasons) leverage the technology to remain connected and to find friends.

Changing definitions (2, Insightful)

Spazmania (174582) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597503)

one reason that the survey might have turned up such a shift in social networks is that many respondents might have interpreted the questions differently in 2004 than they did in 1985.

Sure. In 1985, a close friend was anyone who shared my hobbies and was on a first-name basis with me. There weren't many to pick from so I had to work at maintaining a friendship with all of them.

Thanks to cheap telepresence I'm now in touch with plenty of people who share my interests. I can reserve close friend status for the very few people I'd trust with my life.

Close friends on the internet? (1)

SamSim (630795) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597516)

Fun fact: it's possible to have close friends on the internet. Better, it's possible to talk about important things to people on the internet. In fact, it's often easier. Anonymity can help you to open up. Finding a crowd of people with similar interests/issues can help too, and that's more likely to happen online.

Re:Close friends on the internet? (1)

S.P.B.Wylie (983357) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597554)

Anonymity takes away some from the experience. Part of the "close friend" thing is the ability to open yourself up to ridicule and being hurt and to not be ridiculed or hurt. Anonymity puts up a wall, and that wall makes close friendships harder, no matter what you talk about.

it's a vicious circle (1)

fukknutt (984787) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597547)

see, the reason people are developing more "friends", or acquaintances online is because due to events and circumstances in their lives they no longer find sufficient merit to attempt them in "real life" because the internet gives us a safety zone so to speak,...one that protects us to some degree from those who would wish to persecute, prosecute or otherwise harm us in some way shape or form for how we stand on issues...and yet it is absolutely neccessary that the internet is a two bladed sword in that it has given us this very avenue to still feel included in the human race and its' affairs when in all reality our freedoms are stripped from us everyday and why you ask because people are scared to death to talk to each other in real time for fear of getting their heads bit off. It's not hard to figure out. How many innocent people get beaten down in their own homes by crooks (sometimes they wear uniforms and badges and carry guns) because their neighbors are unaware of what may be happening, and are unwilling to "call the bluff" and "draw down" for the sake of someone in need of help? People are murdered in their homes or drug off to jail everyday to pay for crimes they didn't commit because the state takes advantage of the "fear and loathing" that runs/ruins our lives? I've been closely watching what's been happening for the last 25 years in america. After about the first 10 to 12 I gave up and quit trying to convince people, to "open their eyes". Nowadays it's rare that I even care enough to bother anymore. Like now for instance, regardless of how you may perceive this message, it's really my way of saying "I told you so".

Re:it's a vicious circle (1)

S.P.B.Wylie (983357) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597564)

I totally agree. It has been to long since someone told us "the is nothing to fear but fear itself." And they aren't listening to me either.

Looking for a penpal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#15597557)

29 yo male, seeking for a penpal from any part of the world. Not many friends. Hobbies: photography, scottich whiskey, computers. No family, no life.

Keeping in touch with distant friends (2, Insightful)

Infonaut (96956) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597561)

Some people use the Internet to find new acquaintances or make new friends. Some people use the Internet to maintain relationships with existing friends. Doubtless many people do both.

I find myself in the second category. While I occasionally make acquaintances via the Internet, my primary mechanism for forming friendships is still meatspace. The Internet is tremendously helpful to me in maintaining relationships with friends who no longer live where I live. I can communicate with friends from my years on the East Coast, friends from my time in the military, college, and even back to high school.

The quality of that communication is up to the parties involved, but the mechanism is there. It is simply easier for me to send an email than it ever was to write a letter. A group of about eight or ten friends, spread all over the country, communicate via a small discussion group.

I think back to the early 1990s. I was geographically isolated for three years, far from anything or anyone familiar. The friends with whom I communicated most often were those who had email addresses, and there were many times when those email conversations boosted my spirits and helped me feel connected.

My feeling is that the Internet makes a wide array of communication possible - everything from the shallow smack-talking of game boards and in-game messaging to deep philosophical conversation and truly meaningful sharing of thoughts and feelings. As others in this discussion have suggested, how you use that technology is your own choice.

Not the Internet (1)

Javagator (679604) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597570)

The reason people have fewer close friends is because we have become much more mobile. People use to live in one town, at the same house and work at the same job most of their lives. Now people move to places where they know no one, change jobs before they make close friends, etc. So much movement and change in the people you encounter in day to day life makes it harder to make close friends.

Underlying cause (1)

wwwillem (253720) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597585)

So there are two observations: people have an increasing number of on-line buddies and a decreasing number of off-line real friends. But who can be sure that the former is causing the latter? Statistics is full of this mistake.

OK, lets throw in a third phenomenon, people are more mobile over larger distances. Who is still living in the same city, country or even continent he grew up? Living far away from your old friends and relatives definitely stimulates the use of on-line communication. And each time building a new circle of off-line friends is a tough thing to do.

I'm not saying that people becoming more global is what causes the shift from off-line to on-line friends, but it's just an example to show that assuming a direct cause between two observations is often way too simple.

The Net can be used for local connections too (2, Interesting)

cheesebikini (704119) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597593)

2 important points to note:

1) Internet tech doesn't necessarily discourage local, face-to-face friendships. Right -now- the Web isn't used for local connection but I think that's just because of the way it's -framed-, just a momentary lack of vision by the people/firms building it. And I think that's a temporary anomaly that's disappearing as wi-fi and locative tech takes hold.

Remember the net evolved from a set of LANs, and even as recently as the 80s, the folks who inhabited the dial-up BBS world were very locally-focused (you dialed BBS's in/near your town most often because those phone calls were cheapest) and many of these people got to know the other local BBSers through face-to-face get togethers. These "GTs" were an important part of BBS culture. More recent examples -- Google the study "Neighboring in Netville" to learn fascinating things that happened when researchers wired 1 out of every 3 homes in a typical suburban housing development outside Toronto w/ very simple terminals attached to a basic message forum system tied to a proprietary LAN. The people who moved in weren't techies, but nonetheless after a year this neighborhood was measurably more cohesive and local connections were much stronger than in neighboring unwired subdivisions that otherwise were almost identical in physical structure and demographics. In short: in the wired subdivision a lot more people knew their neighbors and other folks nearby, and the community as a whole was much more politically active in tracking and responding to issues that affected the good of the neighborhood. All because networked communication tech was -framed- as something that connects you to people nearby -- not just as something that connects you to the placeless Web, not -just- something that's for finding people on the other side of the planet who share precisely the same interests that you do.

2) Back to this "Internet to blame" study, note an important point the researchers themselves make: that the wording of the survey questions might have strongly affected the results and their interpretation. (i.e., 2004 respondents might have thought "discussing" doesn't include e-mail/IM.)

A lonely man in a lonely city (4, Insightful)

Magnifico (30966) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597600)

Add to the Internet:

  1. Your car
  2. Your cell phone
  3. Your cable television
  4. Your DVDs and home theater
  5. Your iPod and headphones

These all contribute to not talking to people, not mingling, and not making new friends. Why make a new friend on the streetcar when you're yapping to a friend on your Bluetooth cell phone in your car? Why go out to a theatre when you can see it in private on DVD or cable? Why make listen to that attractive woman trying to hit on you when you're rocking out with your iPod?

The more private, the more personal devices and tools we have, the more solitary our lives are becoming We don't want to share an experience anymore. We don't want to do things for the common good or the benefit of society at large. The Internet is just one facet of an overall trend. Our lifestyle in the early 21st century promotes this focus inwards and our selfishness.

It's how you use it (1)

virgil_disgr4ce (909068) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597628)

As some have already pointed out, it's important to realize that for some (myself included), MySpace has enabled them to expand an existing friend group and keep in touch with people that would otherwise have remained only acquaintances. One of the crucial components of meeting people (especially for dating purposes) is seeing someone often enough to turn "hellos" into actual conversations. Add in the ability to organize events and informally (or semi-formally) invite lots of people you don't really know--it adds up to being able to meet people you wouldn't have otherwise thought appropriate to just call up, or that you're not sure if you have common ground with. "Social networking sites" are simply the www-based expansion of an already extant device--"social networking." People have been networking socially forever. We now have an additional tool in how we network. Some people are born good at it, some will never be, and many may learn how to do it by good old fasioned work and practice. I learned how to be social this way, and I didn't need MySpace to do it. But now that I've come this far, MySpace turns out to be a great and useful addition to my repetoire.

Not just the internet (4, Insightful)

Bombula (670389) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597634)

I don't think it's fair to blame just the internet. There are a lot of forces in modern society that are disolving traditional social networks. I'd say most of them have their basis in technology though. I'm an anthropologist, and while it isn't my area of expertise my (somewhat informed) intuition is that the explanation here is that technology along with infrastructure and support systems have reduced the dependency that individuals used to have on one another for survival.

Taking an extreme example, it is now quite possible to live in a room by yourself and never really talk to anyone, never go anywhere, never really interact with people at all - assuming you order your food in. But even to a lesser extreme things like Wal Mart and supermarkets provide the means for people to survive without being dependent on any other individual person. Whether you're buying dinner or a new car, you're interaction is going to be with someone whom you could just as easily never see again. Instead, we're just dependent on 'the system'.

Looking outside of developed countries, there hundreds of examples of societies and cultures where there isn't a supermarket on every corner, in which case you really have to build relationships and get along with people, whether it's with Mr Baker or Mr Farmer or whatever, in order to survive. And in those places, I can tell you from plenty of field experience, people often genuinely have many more close friends and are much closer to their extended families than we are in the west. In such cultures, people genuinely feel connected to others - not just the people they are very close to, but their neighbors, their communities, their tribes, and their fellow citizens in general. It's probably an important thing to bear in mind, especially since we seem to be dropping bombs on a lot of these sorts of folks these days.

From an evolutionary perspective, situations of social interdependency are a more 'natural' state. I'm not sure if they are 'better' in every way, but they are probably healthier in a strict psychological sense.

My thoughts (2, Interesting)

AriaStar (964558) | more than 6 years ago | (#15597651)

With increased time online and increased time at work, people are making more friends online, and it seems rarely every meeting them in person. While I have made my closest in-person friendships due to the internet, and am very close with some people I've met online, but haven't yet met in person (this summer I have plans to meet three of them with whom I am especially close), I've also seen in-person people very dear to me become unable to handle in-person relationships and friendships as they are much more comfortable dealing with people online, their primary mode of contact.

Internet contact gives them more control as to how much contact, when, the ability to hide faults about themselves that they may not like, therefore not letting others get to know the real person, while others are doing the same, etc., and puts them at a disadvantage for connecting with people within a close proximity on an intimate level or at a real friendship level as they don't have as much control and don't know how to deal with humans being flawed and how to deal with conflicts and such that people tend to try very hard to avoid with online friends. These three things alone indicate a lack of trust in online friends, and a lack of trust of people online can become a general lack of trust in people at all.

It hurts to fall in love with someone, only to have that person, when he moves cross country and to a place a couple miles from you, decide he can't handle the closeness, and then it's over. It also hurts when you meet someone in person you met online as a friend, and any illusions are shattered, and that friendship ends.

I count myself excrutiatingly lucky to have so many people, both in person (most whom I met first online or through someone I met online) and online, with whom I can confide about important matters, but it's taken work to accomplish this circle I have now, and it's takena lot of trial and error, and the determination to not hide flaws to put forward only a good foot forward. Truth be told, no one does or says the right thing all the time, and we all have our insecurities. The question is whether or not we are secure enough to let our imperfections through rather than to mask them. This tendency to hide becomes habit that carries over into in-person friendships and relationships.

This is not to say that all online contact is bad. True, it is easier to keep in touch with friends who have moved away, and we may not always want to peel our butts from our chairs at work to go talk to our bosses, who may not be available at that time, and those little note papers of yesteryear are easily misplaced, when a simple e-mail will due and won't get lost. It can be easier and quicker sometimes to get in touch with your doctor. And sometimes it's easier to make local friends with 10+hr. workdays.

But it's also true that too much internet use has led to a population of recluses and a loss of personal social skills.
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