How the Internet Affects Our Relationships

Excerpt from this article:

A recent study found that “Facebook stalking” an ex-partner was found to hinder recovery after the end of the relationship through prolonging the emotional distress felt. Those who were more traumatised by the break-up were more likely to indulge in Facebook stalking. It’s hard to imagine that these people would all have been prepared to stalk their ex-partners so readily in real life. What is the Internet doing to our relationships with other people that lead us to behave so differently on- and offline?

The two key attributes the Internet offers that allow people to act so differently online are anonymity and physical distance. These attributes contribute to the disinhibition effect. The Internet essentially removes the constraints we usually feel when talking face-to-face, with the resulting effects on our behaviour, leading to online bullying, trolling, stalking and flaming. The regularity with which these behaviours appear in the media might lead us to think that the disinhibition effect has only negative effects, but there can be positive effects too.

For good and for ill

Building closer relationship with people is built upon sharing things about ourselves, such as our likes, dislikes, worries and concerns. Some people find this quite challenging face-to-face, so the physical distance provided by communicating through the Internet is invaluable. For example, socially anxious adolescents find it easier to disclose personal information to their friends when online, the Internet acting as a place where relational skills can be practised.

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