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Internet: More time online, less time with 'real people,' study says

Increased internet usage is causing a decrease in social activities, according to a recent study  

February 17, 2000
Web posted at: 2:06 a.m. EST (0706 GMT)

In this story:

Percentage of heavy users growing

Less time watching TV


PALO ALTO, California (Reuters) -- As Americans spend more time on the Internet they are not only seeing less of their friends and families, but also spending less time stuck in traffic, shopping in malls and watching television.

A new study on the Internet's impact on society released Wednesday reached the conclusion that the more time people spent online, the less time they spent with real people.

But it also revealed some possible benefits, including a reduction in the time spent on some of life's other drudgeries and mindless activities.

Despite these trends, the study, by the Stanford Institute for the Quantitative Study of Society at Stanford University, found that the majority of people who use the Internet still have not seen a significant change in the way they spend their time.

Percentage of heavy users growing

About two-thirds of the Internet users surveyed said they spent less than five hours a week online.

But as Stanford Professor Norman Nie noted, the percentage of heavy Internet users is growing, and will likely increase as a portion of the overall population as the Internet continues to reach new households.

"The Internet could be the ultimate isolating technology that further reduces our participation in communities even more than television did before it," said Nie, who was the chief investigator in the study.

Another key finding of the study was that the more years people have been using the Internet, the more hours they tend to spend online.

Less time watching TV

In addition, sixty percent of regular Internet users say the Internet has reduced their TV viewing, and one-third spend less time reading newspapers.

One activity that tends to increase with increased Internet use is work. While a small fraction -- about four percent -- of those surveyed -- said they cut back their hours at the office after gaining Internet access, 16 percent said they were working more hours at home without cutting back at the office. Another eight percent reported increases in time spent working at home and at the office.

Several Internet companies were quick to issue their interpretation of the study, and point out that by shopping and planning trips online, people should actually have more time to spend with other people.

The online shopping site even offered some tips on making Internet surfing a less isolated activity.

"It may boil down to where your computer lives in your home," Brodia said in a statement, advising people to place their computers "in a communal room or high traffic area."

Doing so, it said, would help "create an environment where family may flourish in all the same ways it did when everyone ate dinner or watched TV together."

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Stanford Institute for the Quantitative Study of Society

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