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Is the internet "antisocial"?

Former Car Owner in Queens posted a link to an interesting essay on dystopia that included this quote:
"As a teenager I was very interested in science and technology. I wanted to be a ham radio operator but didn't have the money to buy the equipment. Ham radio was the Internet of its time: very addictive, and quite solitary. Money issues aside, my mother put her foot down - I was not to be a ham; I was antisocial enough already."

I'm always fascinated by people that assert that "spending all your time chatting on the internet is antisocial."

Personally, I would venture to say that spending time with dozens of people from around the world learning new ideas and customs has got to be a bit more social than spending your life at the bowling alley, bar, or gym with the same ten people you went to high school with. [grin]

Let's look at some people that society might call "very social," like the characters in Seinfeld or Sex and the City - in each case they have exactly three friends, and generally manage to alienate anyone else they come in contact with. That's "better"?

[only slightly tongue-in-cheek]

Thursday, July 1, 2004

Seeing people face to face every day is vastly different from chatting with people.

My theory is that we have a sort of minimal need for social interaction, and various ways we can accomplish it. The internet provides a very low level of sustinance, but it's also the easiest to find (like fast food).

So talking to people is, in my opinion, like eating pizza every day. At least from an emotional point of view. From an intellectual point of view, it's probably more stimulating, but certainly not more stimulating than good conversation with real people. Chatting with people online from all over the world can't replace actually meeting people from all over the world.
Thursday, July 1, 2004

Have you ever attended a get-together of BBS teleconferencing friends? Ours were usually held in a Denny's. You could always tell who the BBSers were, because they were the group of people who, by all appearances, seemed to have absolutely nothing in common. Old and young, male and female, all races, all sizes and shapes, wearing all different styles of clothing. And sometimes that group had too much fun for the restaurant to handle!

BBS'es and now the Internet are a socially enabling device. So the word "anti-social" sometimes appears to be its own antonym.

Thursday, July 1, 2004

If you chat with people you know, it is probably more "real" than IRC.  For example I am a:
- 45 year old, White, and Balding male
- 25 year old, White, and athletic female
- 41 year old, Asian female with no job
- 30 year old, Indian programmer
- 15 year old, black male, using my dad's id.

Since I claim to be anyone, the context around anything I say is different.  In an anonymous world that context means you either trust nothing I say, suspect everything I say, or believe those things that reinforce what you believe. 

It is similar to the popularity of Rush Limbaugh, the poeple who believe in him, are looking for justification for their beliefs.  The more radical, the more mainstream they believe themselves to be. 

So, I don't think it anti-social as much as it is fantasy.

Thursday, July 1, 2004

Ditto for people who believe in Michael Moore, looking for justification in disliking Bush. Fantasy.

Thursday, July 1, 2004

Be honest. People prefer mediated communication
because it is easier at all levels than is face-to-face
interaction. Isn't there something of value being missed
by giving into that ease?

son of parnas
Thursday, July 1, 2004

Something like 90% of communication is non-verbal.  So when you're chatting or emailing with people, your socialization is limited to about 10% of what it should be.  It's sterile compared to face-to-face socialization.

Not to say chatting and being online is worthless.  I've had some interesting, enjoyable, and even educational chat sessions.  But I'd rather spend a little time with someone in "real life" aka meatspace than a whole lotta time with a group of people online.

Should be working
Thursday, July 1, 2004

Oh, and i certainly don't need Michael Moore
to give me reasons to dislike bush. If you like
bush i would think it could only be out if ideological

son of parnas
Friday, July 2, 2004

half of the US disagrees with you, parnas :(

also.. there's lots of antisocial people on the 'net, just try asking about adult ADHD ;)

muppet from
Friday, July 2, 2004

Is the internet antisocial? No. It is a-social. An integrated and extensible association seems to be just not feasable.

I post very often here (among other forums). Initially I used my name. It brought up unwarranted assumptions about me. Then I shifted to a culture-neutral nickname. That stuck for a while. But others soon developed a fixed notion of me and my comments, even without evaluating the merits of those comments on a purely "topical" basis. Again, a lot of the judgements were baseless. Or so I felt.

Now I am just an insignificant speck of an electron. No hangups, no prejudices, no second guessing.

Each of my posts are independent in themselves, with no past or future. Just what that post intends to comment on, and only that. No "rich-environment feedback mechanisms".

I've noticed that online groups tend to create a non-society. It exists to satisfy certain urges of the participants, without affecting any other aspects of their lives. A protective shell. So, something goes wrong, reset cookies. Start afresh. Something impossible in real life.

Is it good or bad? I am too young and inexperienced to make that call.

Just my 2 decimal monetary units.

Friday, July 2, 2004

Bush is great. I like him very much.

Tony Chang
Friday, July 2, 2004

Online, you work only the brain muscles that conduct inner voice dialogs in your head. Sitting in front of a keyboard doesn't allow you to practice the gestures that usually accompany a face-to-face conversation.

I can't go over to you know, thump you on your shoulder and go "Hey buddy, how are you doing?"

I can only go
*thumps you on shoulder*
<grin> Hey buddy, how are you doing?

When you are online chatting with people, you get a chance to think for a long while before hitting that enter key. It is highly edited, censored and non spontaneous.

Social yes. But it's not the same thing.

Friday, July 2, 2004

I would argue that psychology has somehow missed the advent of the Internet.

They (psychologists and others) now find that they do not understand the new phenomenom and the easiest way to deal with something one doesn't understand is to vilify it.

So chatting with people from all over the world becomes "anti-social" and those who engage in it obviously don't have the same excellent social skills as the psychologists who have discovered the big problem with the Internet.

I participated in a quiz about Internet usage a few weeks ago. It was about whether one uses the net too much (in the eyes of a psychologist). One question was how often I check my mails. More than twice a day was considered too much.

Well, I am sitting in a cubicle, Outlook is running and checking for new mails constantly. At home, when I have DSL (don't at the moment, just moved here), my email program does likewise; because it would be rude not to be able to react when a friend sends me a note and because I also answer the phone more often than twice a day for the same reason.

Apparently the psychologist who created the quiz doesn't think that ignoring other people's messages for hours or a day is in any way anti-social at all.

Leauki (Andrew J. Brehm)
Friday, July 2, 2004

I agree with blank, but he's also forgetting that because the internet is basically consequence free - you never even get a dirty look - people can act without restraint, ignoring their otherwise over-active inner voice telling them what not to do in certain situations.

That's why I said that the internet is Easier, but less satisfying than Real Human Interaction, and you never get over that inner voice on the Internet, put back in a situation with real people, you can become just as shy and awkward as you were 10 years ago because you never "fixed" any of your social phobias on the internet.

Put down that computer & go drinking with some of your friends for a change. ;-)
Friday, July 2, 2004

Over the Internet anyone can call anyone else a dog. It takes a Saddam Hussein to say that in perosn in court of law! (1)

Friday, July 2, 2004

Chatting on the internet can be very social and rewarding. I met my wife on ICQ :)

Friday, July 2, 2004

for some people there is the internet as a substitute for the-real-thing. (same feeling as looking at all those people who walk around with their dogs).

Eleanor Rigby
Picks up the rice in the church where her wedding has been;
Lives in a dream.
Waits at the window,
Wearing a face that she keeps in a jar by the door.
Who is it for?
All the lonely people, where do they all come from?
All the lonely people, where do they all belong?

Michael Moser
Friday, July 2, 2004


What's your point?  If you don't walk your dog he craps in your apartment.

BTW, isn't "anti-social" the polite term for "sociopathic" i.e. kids who torture animals and end up criminals?  Nothin anti-social about chatting on the internet.  Maybe someday we will all have virtual reality so we can pick up on non-verbal cues. 

THe great thing about the internet, as others have mentioned is that it greatly expands the potential group of people we can communicate with.  Maybe it will lead to more understanding and a better world.

As for the anti-Limbaugh commentor, have you ever noticed that when you disagree with someone you always attribute nefarious, sad or ignorant motives to their beliefs or behavior?  Isn't it possible that you just disagree based on your brain's composition and life experiences?  Isn't it possible that your motives are impure, your belief system not rooted in flawless Vulcan logic?

name withheld out of cowardice
Friday, July 2, 2004

-- Statement 1: --

I think the internet is not antisocial, but perhaps "parasocial" (new term for the day).  It's a different kind of sociality that is not understood or well-defined in terms of the way we think about social interaction today.

Those who are addicted to IRC are not avoiding social interaction, they just prefer their social interaction (which they rather enjoy) be carried out in a format that is different from the norm.  This surely has both positive and negative consequences, but so does going to a singles bar, a public park, or even church for the purpose of being social.

Those who claim that the internet is antisocial are really claiming that "the internet makes you socialize differently than me, and so we can't associate."  It is that gap that causes concern.

-- Statement 2: --

The guy who talked about BBS gatherings brought back fond memories.  It's too bad global travel is still expensive.  if JOS could meet up the way my old BBS did... that would be something.

Friday, July 2, 2004

I think the one thing that can be dangerous is that you can find people who agree with your views online, and its very easy to ignore alternative sets of opinions. With this you its easy to have lots of people telling you that the way that you think is correct, and can reinforce extremism. In the non online world you are generally held much closer to the average way of thinking and social interaction as you do not have this I'll go and find others who do agree with me mentality then.

This sounds more negative about it than I want it to be as on the whole I think it is very much a good thing that you can get a huge variety of views, cultures etc from the net, but that there is this slight problem with being able to pick and choose what you regard as correct, and that affects your boundaries of what is actually acceptable in the 'real world'

Friday, July 2, 2004

"you can find people who agree with your views online"

Every Internet forum I've ever been in, it's argument after argument.  Every one.  Maybe I should try your Internet? ;)

Friday, July 2, 2004

I agree with that.

Friday, July 2, 2004

I would suggest that chat on the Internet isn't necessarily "antisocial" per se but that it's an inferior communications medium for many topics of conversation.  The reason is that with only text it's difficult to convey or understand what the other person means unless you already know them very well.  When talking to someone in person, there are non-verbal cues that we can pick up on.  Even the telephone adds tone of voice, which can help immensely.  The classic example is sarcasm.  While already dangerous in person, it is even harder to convey the tone in text.  So while Internet chat is not necessarily anti-social per se, I don't believe that it helps people become more socialized beacuse it doesn't help one practice communicating using the non-verbal cues that are important in determining what the other person really means.

The other problem is more general in American society and predates the Internet.  We now live in a world that offers most things that we want in our homes.  We're entertained by TV and movies and don't really need to leave for much of anything.  At the same time, in many large cities most people don't know their neighbors and aren't involved in the community.  While the Internet is definitely not the cause (the decline began far in advance), I think some individuals are substituting being involved in their local community for online interaction.  Neither is necessarily bad but I believe our society needs local community interaction to be cohesive.  It's a long book, but I highly recommend reading _Bowling Alone_, by Robert Putnam, for some perspective on this.  I do believe it's a serious problem with no easy solutions.

Friday, July 2, 2004

judging something like the internet as "antisocial" reveals a lot about the expectations the accuser is foisting upon such a technical creation.

it isn't supposed to be prozac, a support group, or anything that will make people more civic-minded. sheesh. i think it acts as a convenient means for rapidly propagating certain forms of information which are amenable to being displayed on a computer screen and accessed with no particularly special equipment.

the nameless billions who live undistinguished lives will continue to exist irrespective of the nature of the internet. that's a result of the particular sociopolitical/socioeconomic condition of the various countries of the world. i don't see what judging the internet one way of the other does in shedding light on such a situation.

warren henning
Saturday, July 3, 2004

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