Saturday, February 21, 2009

Social Interaction

There is an appalling article by Sigman where he explains how to pick evidence in order to analyze the correlations among the facts of developing cancer and using Fasebook. His claim is that electronic media, and particularly the use of social networking sites, are leading us to interact face-to-face less and that this has health risks. To begin with he proves the hypothesis that as social media increases face to face interaction decreases. Then he gives evidence that loneliness is associated with various biological effects and health risks.

What I do not agree here is that social networks do necessarily need to diminish face to face relations, they could be an other communication media such as the cellphone, that did not replace physical interaction: on the contrary it generally facilitates it. I suspect that factor that makes people more reticent to meet a friend in person is not related, as plain as this doctor suggests, it must be a much more complex phenomena that is taking place in the actual society.

Probably most people that use mainly internet to relate to others had previous social problems. This communication media allows them to relate to others, in a limited way, and also helps them feel less lonely. It can also help them overcame their social problems by using this communication media to practice and learn their interpersonal skills.

A decade ago, a detailed classic study of 73 families who used the internet for communication, The Internet Paradox, concluded that greater use of the internet was associated with declines in communication between family members in the house, declines in the size of their social circle, and increases in their levels of depression and loneliness. They went on to report “both social disengagement and worsening of mood... and limited face-to-face social interaction... poor quality of life and diminished physical and psychological health” (Kraut et al, 1998).This study was indeed a classic. It was so important that the same research team followed up the same participants several years later and published their results in a study called Internet Paradox Revised.What they found was that the negative effects reported in the first study had disappeared, and that the internet use was associated with better a social life.

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