Psychological advantages of the Internet

Psychological disadvantages of the Internet

Psychology on the Internet






Communication via the Web

One of the main debates is over whether or not communication on the internet is psychologically healthy or unhealthy. As more and more people become web savvy, communication through email, online chats and instant messaging increases. Because people are communicating more online, face-to-face interactions are not as commonplace as they were in times before the web.

Decreased inhibitions

One way in which increased communication on the internet is advantageous is by allowing people, especially those who are less personable and outgoing, to feel less inhibited to communicate. The disinhibition effect, termed by John Suler, Ph.D., is characterized by elements such as anonymity, neutralizing of status and decreased social anxiety.

When people can’t be seen or identified, sometimes they are more willing to open up and share true feelings. When there is a personal, face to face relationship and possibly unequal status, people have something to lose by sharing their feelings. In personal relationships, there is a level of vulnerability. The person receiving the information is more likely to pass judgment and the person giving the information is more likely to get hurt.

Communicating by means of the internet removes this level of vulnerability while still allowing people to express themselves. On the other hand, some say people cannot truly emotionally express themselves over the internet, which is one of the argued disadvantages of communication on the internet.

Increased interaction in established relationships

Some studies have found another advantage to be increased interaction with already established friends and family members. The results of these studies showed that internet communication was a supplement to face-to-face interactions with friends and family as opposed to a replacement. Most people reported increased intimacy in relationships with close friends and family as a result of the internet.

The Internet has helped some specific groups of people

The Internet has also increased opportunities for isolated and disabled people to have relationships that they wouldn’t otherwise have. The main reason for this is that the Internet eliminates the physical aspect of relationships, which is a barrier for many disabled people.

The same study, which is an go to CMU's homepageongoing project of Carnegie Mellon University, also found that shy people who are reluctant to socialize and draw back from contact intimacy are more likely to have intimate Internet communication. The web adds a level of security that does not exist in face-to-face communication.

Copyright 2003: © Kristin Mentzer