Life Without the Internet
Recently, Yahoo! and market research firm OMD conducted a study in which 13 families were deprived of Internet access for two weeks. The result: "[R]egardless of age, household income or ethnic background, all participants in the ethnographic research study experienced withdrawal and feelings of loss, frustration and disconnectedness when cut off from the online world. Furthermore, participants described their time offline as having to 'resist temptation', missing their 'private escape time' during the day, and 'feeling left out of the loop'."
Alert observers will note that these symptoms are strikingly similar to those of clinical depression and anxiety... as well as withdrawal from addictive substances.
A secondary, yet equally telling observation: According to Wenda Harris Millard, Yahoo!'s chief sales officer, "It was incredibly difficult to recruit participants for this study, as people weren't willing to be without the Internet for two weeks."
If this study is representative of the broader population (and there's no reason to believe it's not), it shows quite clearly that the Net has evolved from curiosity to necessity in our lives. For many, the Net is an extension of their very being. And it's not just about Web surfing, either. Relationships of all sorts -- business, recreational and, yes, sexual -- are now conducted entirely online. Indeed, social software is what is driving the Internet these days: people go online not simply to meet and interact with people, but because they find it to be a better way to do so.