The first article for this semester’s article analyses (AA) is in regards to a very popular negative connotation that is had about the internet. The paper, entitled In Defense of the Internet: The Relationship between Internet Communication and Depression, Loneliness, Self-Esteem, and Perceived Support is a study that tries to understand whether or not a very basic form of social media – chat room sessions – can be correlated with any of the above feelings or sentiments. The author is of the original opinion that this setting will actually have an exact opposite effect: that the participant’s self-esteem will increase, and that they will show signs of a positive correlation (as in, they will enjoy their chat sessions and positive indicators will emerge from the study).
The author begins with a brief overview of many studies in the past that ‘point’ evidence toward social internet contributing to depression, loneliness, self-esteem issues, and lacking social support. However, the author notes that these claims are made with little to no grounding, and that variables have yet to be measured that actually determine causality. It is also noted that many people – researchers and outsiders alike – have very mixed opinions on the subject matter, and that no one has a truly reputable stance on the issue. This research hopes to find evidence that the Internet is in fact not unhealthy for a person, and that some of these negative ideas should effectively be debunked.
The methodology deployed was very simple and easy to replicate. The model consisted of 40 undergraduate participants, mixed between male and female. The running hypothesis was that the Internet would have a positive effect on users by the end of the five structured internet chat sessions. participants were surveyed on their feelings and thoughts before the study (pre-test), after the third session (midtest), and at the end of the study (post-test). The researchers measured depression, using the CES-D scale, loneliness with the Revised UCLA Loneliness Scale, self-esteem using the Texas Social Behaviours Inventory, and social support with the Cohen-Hoberman Interpersonal Support Evaluation List. Participants were given a log-in name and password to enter into the chat rooms which testing took place. No exclusion criteria were used, and students who participated were unaware of the purpose served in the study aside from multiple chat sessions. The students did not know with whom they were chatting, beyond the fact that it was other students. All sessions in which questions were asked were with the experimenter one-on-one.
The data were analyzed as such: first, mean scores for each scale and sub-scales were calculated. Next, a repeated measure analysis was performed to determine whether scores changed significantly over time. Finally, the results were graphed and compared across all three administered tests.
Results pointed towards the alternative hypothesis: Internet use correlates positively with decreasing loneliness, increasing self-esteem, decreasing depression, and returning positive thoughts on social support structure. The study also notes that each of these variables were positively correlated with significance intervals of p < 0.05 or smaller. The only variable that significance was not reported was loneliness. The discussion touches on new versions of the test to be implemented with different populations, longer time frames, and under different circumstances. It should be noted that the author is under the assumption that chat room sessions might have contributed to the results since conversations that occur in chat rooms are much more personal in nature, allowing for the participant to lower their guard in terms of communication with a ‘stranger’. Lastly, closing thoughts on the issue were that research in this area in general has the potential to harness significant ramifications, and that future research on this area holds a great deal of promise.
My issues with the research are as follows:
Why wasn’t the significance on loneliness reported? The author made certain to point out that all other variables involved were the opposite of what generalizations made of them, but on the topic of loneliness, it gets little to no discussion in the results. Is this the researchers way of withholding information? The charts that are included with the research are clear and easy to read, but still mean little to nothing. Values are posted as ‘having decreased/increased’, but no basis of what is a ‘good’ starting point is created. While showing that social support went up 10 points, I still have no idea as to what a starting social support of 15 means. Is this out of 20? 100? 1000? Is there a ceiling or floor to be had on these scales? I think some of the information needs to be better defined. Otherwise, I fear that the overall view of this study is going to be an “overly-eager attempt to ‘prove’ that a generalization(s) was wrong”. I think that this area of research is something that holds a great deal of promise, but it has to be acknowledged that it will be met with a great deal of scrutiny, as the conflicting views will simply target supposed flaws in design, omitted information, and ignore what is meaningful there.