Living in a Social World
Psy 324: Advanced Social Psychology
Spring, 2000

Interpersonal Communication:   The Pros and Cons of Internet Communication

Selection & Analysis by
Vince Beckman, Ashley Dickirson
Lisa Russell, & Michele Scott


Cartoon by Mike Smith, Las Vegas Sun

    In a recent study conducted by Dr. Robert Kraut, Internet use was shown to cause depression. As our society becomes more reliant on communication via the Internet, it is important to look at how this will shape the way we interact. Do we feel more isolated when we do not have the physical and emotional aspects of talking directly with a person or receiving a hand written letter?

    The cartoon depicts today’s technology, and how some have used it to replace face to face communication. The cartoon shows two people stranded on an island communicating with each other via email. There are many social psychological aspects that play into this.

    Some say it may be easier to talk through a computer because you may feel more comfortable allowing yourself to say things you wouldn’t normally say out loud. This has to do with low levels of self-awareness. That could be the positive side, but there is also a negative side. With a lower sense of self-awareness, it is easier to lie. In today’s world there have been many cases of people who lie through the Internet to get others to do certain things. Chatrooms are an example of where this may take place.

    The Internet also reduces our bias. When meeting someone on the World Wide Web we do not know what this person looks like. We only know what they tell us. Without appearance biases, communication on the Internet becomes much different than more traditional forms of communication.

    Disinhibition, when communicating on the Internet, could be very helpful to those who may have been too shy for face to face communication. An example of this is a student who feels it is easier to email a professor to ask a question. If the student would have otherwise not gone in person to ask the question, than the Internet is opening lines of communication.

    However, communication on the Internet can be used to persuade people into believing whatever is presented to them. Groups and individuals can communicate globally and easily spread their message whether it is good or bad.  Hatewatch.org is an example of a group that is monitoring the growth of hate groups on the World Wide Web. This shows us that not all forms of communication on the Internet are leading us in a positive direction.

    It seems that the Internet is altering the way we communicate in both positive and negative ways. Email provides quick and easy service for many. While it may be increasing lines of communication, it may also be isolating us from more personal forms of communication.


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Social Psychology / Miami University (Ohio USA). Last revised: Thursday, April 18, 2002 at 15:17:10 . This document has been accessed 1 times since 1 Jan 2000. Comments & Questions to R. Sherman