Last week I had the pleasure to talk to Jeff Perron from the wellknown website Wikinomics. He posted two articles on his blog about my research on the relationship between Internet usage and Happiness.
In his first article Jeff gives an overview of the project:
In searching (the Web) for thinkers who have given thought to a correlation between happiness and our use of the Web, I found Jim Stolze’s Virtual Happiness Project. Stolze’s research question – Does the Web make us happy? – is the focus of this post, the first of two on the topic of the Web and human happiness.
Stolze postulates that our romance with the Web (which has only grown stronger with the level of interactivity that characterizes Web 2.0) is fuelled by our need to interact with others. Stolze observes that, i) being social makes us happy; ii) the Web facilitates social interaction; and iii) unsurprisingly, we have readily adopted the Web.
In the second article Jeff has written out some parts of the interview that took place last week:
“In my research nearly all respondents answer that the Web has enriched their lives in two ways,” said Stolze. “The first one being that they consider it their window to the world. There’s no doubt that the democratizing of knowledge has had a positive impact on the way people go through life. From deep thoughts on philosophy to things like finding a restaurant’s phone number or looking up a user review on IMDB.
The second reason is that the Web is a perfect place to find people who are like you – to set up a discussion without the risk of being judged by your looks, skincolor or clothes. We are a social species and we have this deep need to be part of a group. The Internet has become the perfect place to gather around this new global campfire.”
The other side of the “ease of interaction” coin is concern over the extent to which we carry out relationships online, as opposed to face-to-face. Stolze doesn’t discount this concern:
“There is a disconnect between our number of ‘friends’ and the number of deep connections we have. This is called friendship inflation. Simple economic law says that when there is more of something, the individual value decreases.”
Stolze does agree, however, that while an abundance of Web 2.0 friendships will cause some of us to disregard the importance of deep, traditional friendships, an equal, if not greater, number of us will use the Web to strenghten existing strong ties and develop new ones. In referring to online communication with close friends, Stolze says, “The best emails I receive, are the ones that say: ‘Hey Jim, let’s have lunch this Friday. Same place?’”
Stolze’s book, How to Survive Your Inbox, will be released, in Dutch, this coming June, but he gave me a preview of the conclusion:
“In my research, I found that I was not able to prove, scientifically, that the Web makes us happy. I would say that the answer is no, given my results. What the data does allow me to say is that not being connected to the Internet makes you unhappy. It’s kind of the new hygiene.”
Thanks Jeff, for taking the time. I look forward to the comments on your blog.