Caught in the web

Is the internet a safe communication environment for socially anxious individuals, or does it in fact increase social isolation? Robin-Marie Shepherd and Robert J. Edelmann report.
THE past decade has witnessed an explosive growth in the use of the internet; a recent estimate suggests that there are over 400 million internet users worldwide (Nua Internet Surveys, 2001) with an expectation that there will be one billion users by 2005. The introduction of easier access to the internet via digital TV and mobile phones will no doubt ensure this estimate is achieved. The internet is used for a variety of purposes, both at work and leisure. These include information retrieval, online shopping, entertainment, communication and a host of other activities. As a result of this widespread availability and practical applications, many people spend a great deal of time interacting with or via their computer rather than engaging face-to-face with colleagues or friends.

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