Carnegie Mellon News Online Edition: September 6, 2001
Carnegie Mellon News Online Edition
In This Issue
Where The Girls Are

McCullough Leads MCS

Wall Street Executive Heads GSIA

Internet Study

Class of 2005 At A Glance

Diversity Recruiting

Robot's Success

Summer News Round-Up

Getting Their Kicks

International Visitors

Trotter Heads History Department

John Anderson Reappointed To CIT

Cell Phones Distract Drivers

New Director of Campus Security

This Issue's Front Page
Carnegie Mellon News Home
Carnegie Mellon News Services Home Page

Computer Photo
New Study Finds Internet Use To Be Less Depressing, But Stressful

Using the Internet may not cause feelings of depression, loneliness and isolation, but it does increase stress. So say the findings of a new Carnegie Mellon study that examined the social effects of daily Internet use.

The Carnegie Mellon research team that three years ago published its findings that the Internet had a tendency to make some people lonely and depressed is creating a buzz with new, seemingly contradictory findings.

"The Internet is a better place to be and live than it was in 1995," said social scientist Robert Kraut, professor of human computer interaction.

In 1998, a research team led by Kraut and fellow Human Computer Interaction Professor Sara Kiesler reported small but reliable negative social effects of using the Internet. Their study, called "HomeNet," tracked how using the Internet in the home affected 93 Pittsburgh families.

"We called the effects a 'paradox' because participants used the Internet heavily for communication, which generally has positive effects," Kraut recalled.

A three-year follow-up of the original sample of 208 everyday computer users found that the negative effects dissipated.

"Consistent with a 'rich get richer' model, the Internet generally predicted better outcomes for extraverts and those with more social support but worse outcomes for introverts or those with less support," wrote the research group in their new paper titled "Internet Paradox Revisited."

"Extraverts, who like making new friends, are using new technology to express themselves," Kraut told The New York Times. "When introverts are using the Internet, it seems to hurt their social well-being, their social connectedness."

Co-authors of the research report include Kraut, Kiesler, Associate Professor of Psychology Vicki Helgeson, and Bonka Boneva, Jonathon Cummings and Anne Crawford, postdoctoral fellows in the Human Computer Interaction Institute.

While there were declines in the reports of feelings of depression and loneliness, Internet users did report increased levels of stress. Team members aren't sure why stress levels increased but speculate that it may be because there is simply more electronic communication to wade through. Or they may be frustrated over the complexity of complicated activities such as downloading digital music or playing online video games.

"People may be stressed because it's just another thing on their to-do list," Kraut told USA Today.

Kraut cautioned that research has "not yet led to consensus on either the nature of social interaction online or its effects on social involvement and personal well-being."

Carnegie Mellon Professor of Industrial Administration Tridas Mukophadhyay and William Scherlis, principal research scientist for Carnegie Mellon's Institute for Software Research International, were members of the initial HomeNet team.

"Internet Paradox Revisited" will be published next spring in the Journal of Social Issues. In the meantime, the New York Times said "the results are reverberating through the community of Internet researchers, many of whom have heard Dr. Kraut discuss his work at academic conferences this summer."

The study was funded by the National Science Foundation and initial data collection was supported through grants from Apple Computer Inc, AT&T Research, Bell Atlantic, Bellcore, CNET, Intel Corporation, Interval Research Corporation, Hewlett Packard Corporation, Lotus Development Corporation, the Markle Foundation, The NPD Group, Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation (NTT), Panasonic Technologies, the U.S. Postal Service and U.S. West Advanced Technologies.

Teresa Sokol Thomas

This Issue's Headlines || Carnegie Mellon News Home || Carnegie Mellon Home