One of the great debates about the internet is what it is doing to the relationships that Americans have with friends, relatives, neighbors, and workmates.
On the one hand, many extol the internet’s abilities to extend our relationships — we can contact people across the ocean at the click of a mouse; we can communicate kind thoughts at two in the morning and not wake up our friends. Back in the early years of the internet, some prophets felt that the internet would create a global village, transcending the boundaries of time and space. As John Perry Barlow, a leader of the Electric Frontier Foundation wrote in 1995:
With the development of the internet…we are in the middle of the most transforming technological event since the capture of fire. I used to think that it was just the biggest thing since Gutenberg, but now I think you have to go back farther (p. 36)…. I want to be able to completely interact with the consciousness that’s trying to communicate with mine. Rapidly… [w]e are now creating a space in which the people of the planet can have that kind of communication relationship. (p. 40)
On the other hand are those who fear that the internet causes a multitude of social and psychological problems. Several psychologists have claimed to treat people with “internet addiction.” For example, in 1999, David Greenfield adapted a diagnostic tool from a gambling addiction questionnaire, substituting “internet” for gambling. This approach ignores the positive benefits of being involved with the internet: Compare a statement such as “I am gambling too much” with one such as “I am communicating on the internet too much.”