Web Worries

Along with raves about the valuable information right at hand on the Web, and the surging stock prices of dotcoms, comes a warning: This technology is altering our lives, perhaps in worrisome ways.

A recent study by Stanford University researchers identified three areas of concern: (1) that heavy Internet use is cutting down on contact with "real" people; (2) that this technology is allowing work to invade the home; (3) that older media, TV and newspapers, are being neglected in favor of the Net.

It would be unwise not to look hard at the impact of seductive new technologies. TV has been subject to such scrutiny for half a century. But undue gloominess has to be watched, too.

Arguably, the Internet is increasing contact between people, albeit at a distance. E-mail, for most people, the dominant use of the Web, can make keeping in touch with friends and family easier. True, all that time spent at the keyboard might reduce time spent talking directly to spouses, children, and friends. But plenty of other things - long commutes and, yes, the TV - tend to do that too.

And the invasion of home by work? This happens. But for many people, the ability to work on the Net at home also means more time with the family.

Less time for TV and papers? The worry here is that Web surfing hardly substitutes for more focused, in-depth reading and viewing. That only rarely applies to television, and the decline of reading is a problem with many causes. The Web, of course, offers much enlightening reading - along with a lot that's worthless.

Communications media tend to become integral parts of our lives. It's up to us to keep priorities straight. If face-to-face discussion with family members ranks high, nothing should get in the way of it. That's always been the challenge. The Internet renews it.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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