There is no denying that the Internet changed how we communicated with friends and family in faraway cities in an instant. I’ve reconnected with people I haven’t seen in person for 10 or 15 years because of email, social networking sites and search engines. So far all of the old friends and acquaintances with whom I’ve wanted to catch up have appeared online at some point. This is incredible.
The marrow of today’s discussion:
Has the Internet negatively affected our social skills?
Some of the articles I linked to earlier claim that we were kinder and knew how to get along with one another better before people began spending so much time socializing online.
Is this true?
I was a few months shy of 16 before my family signed up for Internet access. Most of the communities we lived in during those years were small, rural and midwestern. In my experience a small percentage of the population will always be malignantly unfriendly but most people are wonderful most of the time. This was as true 20 years ago as it was last week. The biggest difference between life before the Internet and what we have now is that it’s easier now to choose with whom we spend our time. This is a good thing. My life would have been much more difficult if I hadn’t been able to connect with like-minded people. (Living in a small town of circles can be achingly lonely when you’re a square peg!)
To be honest, though, I was so young when I first plugged in that I may not be remembering things correctly. Maybe people really were better socialized in the 90s, 80s, 70s, etc. Maybe we really are losing those skills by spending too much time online.
What was life like before you discovered the Internet? Did people as a whole have better interpersonal skills a generation ago?
Are we romanticizing the past?
(I’m particularly interesting in hearing from those of you who did not grow up with Internet access!)