What the Internet is Doing Part 3 of 3: Our Communities

I’m haunted by the mis-information that’s out there about what the internet is “doing” to us. I’ve made it my career as a social psychologist to look closely at the claims made in public and behind the walls of the ivory tower, examining research about what drives and influences us and how today’s drivers and influencers might be different from those pre-web.

I’ve been doing this for 15 years. Last year, I published a book about it, and next week, the fifth series of The Digital Human, the BBC Radio 4 programme about who we are as human beings at the beginning of the 21st century.It starts next Monday 7 April.

But there are still so many questions! So I’m publishing a primer on the good and the bad of what the internet is doing to us.

This is the third in a series of blogposts answering those questions. Read the first two, about our selves and our sex lives.

Today’s topic - what the internet is “doing” to us.

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What the Internet is Doing to Us Part 2 of 3: Sex

I’m haunted by the mis-information that’s out there about what the internet is “doing” to us. I’ve made it my career as a social psychologist to look closely at the claims made in public and behind the walls of the ivory tower, examining research about what drives and influences us and how today’s drivers and influencers might be different from those pre-web.

I’ve been doing this for 15 years. Last year, I published a book about it, and next week, the fifth series of The Digital Human, the BBC Radio 4 programme about who we are as human beings at the beginning of the 21st century.It starts next Monday 7 April.

But there are still so many questions! So, I’m publishing a primer on the good and the bad of what the internet is doing to us.

This is a three-part series looking at the good and bad of the web on our lives. Today’s topic - what the internet is “doing” to sex. Read yesterday’s topic - our selves - here.

Read More

What the Internet is Doing to Us Part 1 of 3: Our Selves

I’m haunted by the mis-information that’s out there about what the internet is “doing” to us. I’ve made it my career as a social psychologist to look closely at the claims made in public and behind the walls of the ivory tower, examining research about what drives and influences us and how today’s drivers and influencers might be different from those pre-web.

I’ve been doing this for 15 years. Last year, I published a book about it, and next week, the fifth series of The Digital Human, the BBC Radio 4 programme about who we are as human beings at the beginning of the 21st century. It starts next Monday 7 April.

But there are still so many questions! So over the next three days, I’m publishing a primer on the good and the bad of what the internet is doing to us.

Today’s topic - what the internet is “doing” to our selves.

Read More

Here’s more on the latest research about the transformation of modern love, for the GenY Takeover of The Guardian:

Aleks Krotoski: Sex and romance online was for freaks and geeks until young people came along. Nothing would ever be the same again

If you like this, you’ll like the Love and Sex chapters of Untangling the Web: What the Internet is Doing to You.

The book’s also on sale at the Faber & Faber website, on UK Amazon or on US Amazon. Other territories are available too!

"Aleks Krotoski is a rare combination of academic (she has a PhD in psychology), geek, reporter and fluent essayist." - The Guardian

"Her combination of cautious academic rigour and geek-like enthusiasm makes a very valuable contribution to the debate" - Financial Times

The Quantified Self movement searches for universal points and scores and payoffs, but doesn’t acknowledge the systems behind how those are valued, who chooses them, what they mean, and who they leave out — often the already overlooked and marginalized, like caregivers and other low-wage workers.

I’ve experimented with several QS systems for some time, but have recently found myself in different circumstances than those I was in when I began my relationship with those technologies.

I’ve become increasingly frustrated by QS devices and systems that assume that, for example, losing weight or exercising more is the holy grail to happiness. What if your situation is different? For example, you’re underweight, injured or have another condition that means these parameters are not only incorrect but could be harmful? These services are inflexible and arguably perpetuate social assumptions.

So I was very pleased to discover this quote from this wonderful long-term analysis of what quantifying the self has meant in the context of gender politics and modern society.

From Amelia Abreu’s 24 Feb 2014 article, Quantify Everything: A Dream of a Feminist Data Future.

HT Alison Powell

Researcher Toby first got in touch when he was starting out his MA in Applied Theology, and he’s settled into a very interesting question in his study:

"[what is] the nature of social media, using Twitter as a case study, and how it might be inherently inclined to change us as people and cultures in different ways, along with an exploration of the theological implications of that."

Have a look at these questions and answer if you can.

kthread

kthread:

> I figured I would get some weird messages here and there, but what I got was an onslaught of people who were, within minutes of saying hello, saying things that made me as a dude who spends most of his time on 4chan uneasy.

Man Poses as Woman on Dating Site; Barely Lasts Two Hours,” Rebecca Rose, Jezebel, January 13, 2014. 

People ask why I do not online date sometimes. 

The people behind the screens are the revolutionaries, the changemakers, I argue in this week’s Untangling the Web audio advent calendar treat. But not in the way you might think.

People generally don’t think of the paper on which the daily news is printed, or the printing press that puts it there as anything but neutral. They identify the publishers as the ideologues and the medium as the conduit. You’d think the same, broadly speaking, would apply where the web is concerned: Julian Assange didn’t invent the wiki platform where the confidential wires were leaked, he was the editor and Wikileaks was the  medium. But in Consent of the networked, former CNN China Bureau Chief Rebecca MacKinnon offers a reality check: “We have a problem,” she writes. “We understand how power works in the physical world, but we do not yet have a clear understanding of how it works in the digital realm.” in fact, we probably don’t even think about power when we update our statuses on Twitter, connect with old school friends via Facebook, but a book based on recommendations from Amazon, or use Mail, Docs, Plus, Maps or Search on Google.

The truth is that software, from computer games to web services from Amazon to Match.com, is suffused with the principles decreed by the context in which it is produced.

If you leave this wanting more, check out the chapters on Friendship and Identity.

"Aleks Krotoski is a rare combination of academic (she has a PhD in psychology), geek, reporter and fluent essayist." - The Guardian

"Her combination of cautious academic rigour and geek-like enthusiasm makes a very valuable contribution to the debate" - Financial Times

Until Wednesday 18 December (last order date for Christmas), people using code UNTANGLING at theguardian.com/bookshop can get copies of Untangling the Web for £6.50, saving 50% off RRP.

The book’s also on sale at the Faber & Faber website, on UK Amazon or on US Amazon. Other territories are available too!

Last week, I posted the audio version of the Untangling the Web chapter about identity. This week, I look at a far more social side of our personalities: Friendship.

In 1998, Robert Kraut from Carnegie Mellon University and his colleagues published their research about a group of people they had introduced to the web. From 1994 to 1996, they’d asked this group to rate their levels of well-being, their feelings of social isolation and the number of friends they had. And in this period, while going online the new web users reported that they had fewer social bonds and felt more depressed, and struggled to establish trust in other people in virtuality. How could they be friends with someone? They couldn’t even be sure who the other person was. 

Newspapers splashed with the article’s subheading, “A social technology that reduces social involvement and psychological well-being?” Fanning the flames of fear with this new, untested technology, this research paper is still one of the most frequently cited papers when journalists write about the quality of life online. But according to what we know now, after fifteen years of research that has consistently and almost universally contradicted the findings of the Internet Paradox, the web is one the best places to make new friends and have a rich and rewarding social life in the modern world.

Have a hear and tell me what you think!

"Aleks Krotoski is a rare combination of academic (she has a PhD in psychology), geek, reporter and fluent essayist." - The Guardian

"Her combination of cautious academic rigour and geek-like enthusiasm makes a very valuable contribution to the debate" - Financial Times

Until Wednesday 18 December (last order date for Christmas), people using code UNTANGLING at theguardian.com/bookshop can get copies of Untangling the Web for £6.50, saving 50% off RRP.

The book’s also on sale at the Faber & Faber website, on UK Amazon or on US Amazon. Other territories are available too!

Neil Denny from London’s Resonance FM got me into a studio last week to record a gloriously extended conversation for the Little Atoms podcast about several of the topics covered in Untangling the Web: What the Internet is Doing to You. But, you know, with a whole lot more. Including updates on sex, anonymity and what Edward Snowdon has done for you.

Have a listen, and please subscribe to their excellent pod. I am positively honoured to be included in their amazing lineup of interviewees.

"Aleks Krotoski is a rare combination of academic (she has a PhD in psychology), geek, reporter and fluent essayist." - The Guardian

"Her combination of cautious academic rigour and geek-like enthusiasm makes a very valuable contribution to the debate" - Financial Times

Until Wednesday 18 December (last order date for Christmas), people using code UNTANGLING at theguardian.com/bookshop can get copies of Untangling the Web for £6.50, saving 50% off RRP.

The book’s also on sale at the Faber & Faber website, on UK Amazon or on US Amazon. Other territories are available too!