Christian Cárdenas, Sara Jasper, Kristen Parton, Jed Rose and Luke Swartz

"The brave new world of cyber-glop will be an increasingly lonely, isolated and dehumanized word. It will be a place where you can order anything you want online, but you don’t know your neighbors, where your children and your parents will spend evening hours logged into the Net, talking to distant strangers rather than each other."

-Clifford Stoll, author of "Silicon Valley Snake Oil"

ecent studies by Stanford's SIQSS and Carnegie Mellon's HomeNet Project have shown that increased use of the Internet leads to social isolation and depression. People who spent more time on the Internet spent less time socializing with peers, communicated less within the family and felt more lonely and depressed. However, other studies emerged contradicting these results, suggesting that the Internet actually brings people closer together by bridging geographical barriers. We examine these studies in depth, including the criticism they have recieved from the media. In order to understand what contributes to Internet isolation, we look in-depth at how social tools such as email, online communities and Internet usage can bring people together virtually, but may also result in isolating them physically.

To make our research more meaningful and applicable to the Stanford community, we conducted our own survey of an accidental sampling of Stanford undergraduates, focusing on the various ways students use the Internet and how it affects their social lives, relationships and communication with friends and family. As Jakob Nielsen observed, Internet use is predominantly correlated with age and level of education. Stanford undergraduates represent a concentrated population of highly educated young people, a group with much greater exposure to the Internet than the average person addressed by previous studies. By comparing our survey findings to those of previous studies, we draw conclusions about the way the Internet impacts the personal lives of people living in an Internet-integrated society, a goal which America seems to be rapidly approaching.

Site Organization

This site begins by examining the debate over isolation and connectedness on the Internet, followed by an in-depth look at studies of Internet isolation.  Finally, we present our own study and its results, and our overall conclusions.

This web site is our final project for our Computers, Ethics, And Social Responsibility class in the Computer Science department at Stanford University.