FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Through Life's Ups and Downs, the Internet is There

Increasingly, the Internet is playing a large role in major life events, according to a survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. The survey found that people rely on the Net to help them make decisions and gather moral support for coping with or helping others cope with a serious illness, training for a new career, making major financial moves, finding a new place to live, choosing a school or college, and buying a car. The number of people who claim the Net has been a major factor in such key decisions has increased markedly since Pew conducted a similar survey in 2002.

Longtime observers of the Internet are surely not surprised at these findings, which underscore how the Net is replacing older, smaller networks such as family, neighbors and close friends. To than end, an interesting study might be to what degree the information/support found online is better or worse than that gathered through more traditional means. On the one hand, access to online communities is available regardless of one's family status or physical location. But on the other, community members rarely have a stake in each other's success; it's no skin off someone's nose if they provide biased, misinformed or misleading advice.