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Study: USENET Newsgroups Does Not Cause Anti-Social Behavior
November 5th, 2009

Officially, you can’t complain that spending your day on USENET is the reason why your anti-social. Researchers at Pew Internet and American Life Project released the results of its recent study that was aimed at determining whether if online could lead to a reduction in the size and diversity of core discussion networks and social networks more broadly.

Result: Using technology has not made us less social.

The national study is the first to explore how people use the USENET and World Wide Web to interact with close family and friends. The project found that both the size and diversity of people’s discussion networks are actually higher on average for those who participate on online social networks, like USENET newsgroups, challenging a 2006 report that blamed technology for an increase in social isolation.

“We find that the extent of social isolation has hardly changed since 1985, contrary to concerns that the prevalence of severe isolation has tripled since then,” Pew researchers report.

Online use does not pull people away from places such as parks, cafes and restaurants, Pew researchers conclude: “Online access has become a common component of people’s experiences within many public spaces.” Also, in opposition to the conclusion that online usage primarily bridges gaps between people who are geographically far from each other, the survey found that there is little difference between local social usage of technology and distant communication.

The findings clearly stand in contrast to the notion that technology “might cause people to retreat from life,” says Lee Rainie, who directs the Pew Internet project. Spending time with online social networks – such as USENET newsgroups, he says, gives people “new powers to extend themselves and extend their interests.”

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