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!