In Defense of the Internet: Stimulation Hypothesis

Every new technological advancement raises new questions. How will it affect us psychologically? How will it shape society? Will it change the existing relationships between, citizens, corporations, media, and government? Those who have lived through the emergence of electricity, steam trains, landlines (phones), radio, TV, and ultimately the internet, will probably be able to tell you that all these inventions come with concern. Will the existence of the internet eventually lead to the end of all direct human interaction? 

Often I hear parents express worry over the fact that children seem to be spending ‘a lot of time’ on the internet. Shouldn’t they be playing outside, hanging out with their friends? Has the internet made us more individualistic and antisocial? It is regularly suggested that people ‘nowadays’ spent more time on the internet than engaging in contact with their friends and family. This could be defined as the displacement hypothesis (Valkenburg & Peter, 2007). However, a contrasting hypothesis states that people actively use the internet as a means to participate in online communication, this is referred to as the stimulation hypothesis. Valkenburg and Peter found significant results that support their stimulation hypothesis.

The internet has probably enormously increased mobilization and globalization. It has become easier to look for jobs elsewhere and to enjoy pop music created in other countries. And when one of our friends is temporarily studying abroad, we can effortlessly keep in contact through many internet services. Moreover, we can make new friends, and look for relationships using apps and sites. And according to data gathered in the USA, 23% have found their spouse by using these services (Smith & Duggan, 2013).

However, the internet will continue to bring more possibilities to make our lives simpler and often more complex as well. Thus people are persistently going to take a reflexive stance on new inventions regarding services provided using an internet connection. As individuals will continue to refer back to times when such services were not available yet, through the use of the internet. And unfortunately the sole way to find out which services fit our lifestyle and serve the greater good is through a process of trial and error. We cannot anticipate all of the possible consequences.

References

Smith, A. and Duggan, M. (2013) Online dating & relationships. Available at: http://www.pewinternet.org/2013/10/21/online-dating-relationships/ 

Valkenburg, P. M., & Peter, J. (2007). Online communication and adolescent well‐being: Testing the stimulation versus the displacement hypothesis. Journal of Computer‐Mediated Communication, 12(4), 1169-1182.

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