According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project and the Imagining the Internet Center at Elon University, the Internet will do more social good than harm over the next decade.
In fact, 85% of the 895 Internet experts and users polled agreed that, "In 2020, when I look at the big picture and consider my personal friendships, marriage, and other relationships, I see that the Internet has mostly been a positive force on my social world. And this will only grow more true in the future."
Ok, I can buy that. I am a bit suspicious of the sample - Internet experts don't want to put themselves out of a job, and Internet users by definition use the Internet (although for what purpose and how they were recruited to the survey, I don't know). But overall, I can see how being connected to the world can be a "mostly" positive force on one's social world - depending on how, channeling Bill Clinton, you define "social world."
Often using their own experiences as examples, respondents cited their ability to stay in touch with family, reconnect with old friends and former colleagues, communicate with people in other nations, and follow their interests and hobbies.
True enough - after all, you're reading this on a scientific blogging site. I wouldn't have been connected to anyone here unless Hank had given me the opportunity to become a member.
On the other hand, only 14% believed the opposite was true, and that the Internet has mostly been a negative force on their social world, according to the report.

Yet even those who credit the Internet as a powerful and benevolent social force1 voiced concerns. Individuals could become isolated or the art of conversation could be lost, said some. Other major worries included privacy and security, time lost online, and the changing nature of friendships, according to the study.

"Social networking encourages people to have a greater number of much shallower friendships. Insofar as online interaction replaces real-world interaction, the Internet is a negative force in the social world. I know what 15 of my friends had for breakfast, but I don't know whether any of them is struggling with major life issues," said survey respondent Gervase Markham, a programmer for the Mozilla Foundation. "If this trend continues, people in 2020 will have hundreds of acquaintances but very few friends. However, doesn't quite have the same ring to it."

I like that - acquaintancebook! Depending on how you use Facebook or other socially-minded sites, it hits fairly close to the bull's eye.

Like most things, there are pros and cons - Socrates and Buddha teach "everything in moderation," as extremes on either end can lead to unhappiness. The Internet has done a lot of good, but as the story notes, also a lot of bad (and not just socially; I'm speaking overall here).

What do you think?

***Update: Prince has declared that the Internet is dead. "[A]ll these computers and digital gadgets are no good. They just fill your head with numbers and that can't be good for you." Prince just moved back to Minnesota (he's from my home state) so if lightening smites Paisley Park I'll let you know. Nietzsche said the same thing about God being dead...Another connection between the Internet and God...(cue Twilight Zone music)


1 Isn't "powerful and benevolent" usually followed by "God?" That's a little scary...WarGames or Terminator, anyone?

Source: Information Week