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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Lonely On The Internet?

            Almost every morning, including weekends, I wake up and come downstairs to get a cup of tea.  My next impulse is to go to the dining room where I use my laptop computer.  On the weekend I am usually able to wait till afternoon before turning it on to check my blogspot, Facebook, email and my downloaded computer games. 
         I have several different email addresses. Up to now my most frequently used email is connected with Kwantlen Polytechnic University. My retirement from Kwantlen this August will change that.
My next most visited email address connected to Community Building; our family business. I use this email to explore my Retirement Workshop opportunities.
         Other email connections outside Kwantlen and Community Building are with my family including my brothers and sisters who live in the United States. Without the Internet I would have much less connection with them as I don’t phone or write letters very often. Besides email, facebook is also an interesting tool for communication.  On Facebook have connections with my half brother Reynolds who also lives in the United States.
          My most important social connection is with my wife who soon after she gets up in the morning also tends to turn on her laptop computer, which she keeps in the family room.  On many days there is little communication between us for several hours as we check our mail, blogspots and play computer games. She also uses her blog to communicate with members of the arts community.  Other than our computer use we spend a lot of time together.
         I still have connections with other faculty who have already retired.  Just last week one of my friends who took early retirement several years ago celebrated his 65th birthday.  By email we were invited to his home where he lives with his also retired faculty member Verian. Ten other already retired faculty members, most of whom I know, were there. It was great fun!!.
         So what’s use of the Internet got to do with loneliness?  Yesterday, while I was surfing the net I came upon a research article that discusses Internet use and loneliness in older adults.[i]
         The article begins with the statement that: “There is controversy in the research literature…about whether Internet use increases or decreases social connections and about it’s psychological benefits.” The specific task of this research article is to study the question “How does internet use impact on senior’s loneliness?”  They investigated 222 Internet users in Australia who were at least 55 years old.  One of their tools was an Internet Use Questionnaires ranging from “…less than 4 hours per week to more than 16 hours per week.” Where do you fit in?  The other tool used was a social loneliness scale. “...with social, family, and romantic subscales.”   Some questions from that scale are listed at the bottom of this blog entry.
         The researchers found that 90% of the respondents used the Internet at least 4 hours per week. Thirty percent reported more than 16 hours per week. After all the data had been organized and analyzed the authors found that Internet communication with family and friends is associated with lower levels of social loneliness.
         On the other hand loneliness on the Internet depends on the person you communicate with. The research project used the Internet Breadth Scale that includes: “finding new people, entertainment, commerce communication and seeking information.”

Here are some of the Revised UCLA Loneliness Scale items:
1.  There is no one I can turn to
2.  My social relationships are superficial
3.  People are around me but not with me.
4.  There are people I can talk to
5.  I feel part of a group of friends
6.  No one really knows me well
7.  My interests and ideas are not shared by those around me

         Think this over.  Does how much time you spend on and what you use the Internet for help, hinder or have nothing to do with your meaningful social relationships?

[i]  Shima, S., Mathews, M.R., Huges, I. & Campbell, A. (2008). Internet use and             loneliness in older adults. CyberPshchology & Behavior, 11(2), 208-211.

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