Saturday, May 15, 2010

Go Online; Be Happy

Every new technology spawns its detractors. The steam engine disrupted community life; the telephone detracted from face-to-face communication; the television deprived people of family night.

The internet is not an exception. It has disrupted the way we work; it has changed the way we organize our lives; and it has altered the way we communicate with our friends and family.

And many people do not like to have their routines disrupted.

Moreover, studies have shown that some people become addicted to the internet, and that others become stressed by the online, virtual world of cyberspace.

Now, however, a new study has thrown that into question. It has concluded that the internet makes people happier. Around the world, when you introduce people to the internet, they become happier. Link here.

If we look at why this is so, we will have a better grasp of what makes people happy. The answer should not come as a surprise. The internet makes people happy because it gives them more freedom, more information, and more control over their lives.

The more information you can access the less you will feel at the mercy of events that you do not understand that are being decided without your input. The internet gives you more information, but it also gives you more opportunities to communicate your opinion, to organize politically and socially, and to increase your knowledge.

President Obama might find it offensive that you have free access to so much information-- good, bad, or indifferent-- but the rest of us are apparently regaling ourselves with a new freedom to learn and understand the world without having to rely on gatekeepers like editors and publishers.

Better yet, the internet makes us more social. Email and search engines allow us to keep in touch with more people than ever before. This palliates the feeling that as we move around the world we lose touch with friends and neighbors. In a world that is increasingly fragmented socially, the internet allows us to maintain a connection.

These connections are not the same as those our ancestors had when they lived out their lives in one community surrounded by the same group of friends and family, but they are still social connections. They provide something of an attachment, a sense of belonging to community, in a world where it has become increasingly difficult to stay in one place.

Surely, there are downsides to the internet. There always are. With the internet, most of the psychological studies had emphasized the downside. Now these new studies show the psychological advantage to being online. And they also provide us with a new insight into what really makes people happy.




6 comments:

Anonymous said...

That would have been great without the Obama comment, it made no sense and didn't relate to the article at all. Maybe I'm missing something? :)

Katharine said...

Obama complained last week that he doesn't want
our searching Internet for info. . . get it directly from him. Unfortunately he's about as honest as the NYT: worthless. The comment is perfectly times.

Rick Caird said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rick Caird said...

Katherine,

Anonymous needs to have more internet. If he had more, he would have known about Obama's fear of all things iPod, iPad, and tweets.

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Kevin said...

The new internet crazyness may seem kind of worrying but actually we don´t have nothing to worry about. i understand that President Obama thinks that it is offensive being exposed to so much info, but for people it is a free access to a world that we wouldn´t know otherwise. Regarding Online counseling, I believe that it is of great help for those who can´t afford a face to face session or simply don´t like it.
So Internet opens this window to psychology that can improve our quaity of life.
Kevin