The Stanford study, prepared by the university's Institute for the Quantitative Study of Society, found that 55% of Americans now have access to the Net. Of those, 36% said they were online at least five hours a week.
The study strongly challenged the assertions of Net advocates and enthusiasts (like me) who argue that the Net creates, communicates, promotes contact and is frequently used by people to connect, rather than disconnect with other humans.
According to Stanford researchers, Internet users are lonelier than other Americans, and are spending more time away from them. Interestingly (and, to me, dubiously), the survey defined loneliness in this way: whether you spend physical time with family and friends, whether you attend fewer social events, whether you spend less time reading newspapers and watching TV, shopping in stores, or are working more at home than before. In other words, the survey defines a radically new environment by nearly ancient measures of human contact.
The Stanford study didn't appear to consider e-mail or other virtual contact - gaming, communities, mailing lists, messaging systems, as contact with other humans. It suggested that the Net was invading the home with work and creating a pervasive new wave of social isolation.
Do online contacts - e-mail, communities like this, messaging systems, mailing lists - not count as connective, or as making contact with people? Are virtual friends friends? Is it more social to watch TV or read a paper than to be online, no matter what you do there?
I've met my closest friends online, and joined some of the most enduring communities of my adult life on the Net. From the first, I've seen it as a way for me to connect with other people, not get away from them.
But here's a chance to say for yourselves whether you consider the Net isolating or not, rather than to have studies or others describe that experience for you: