The electronic mail has replaced the sending of physical letters; the mobiles have brought the immediate communication into the pocket; and social networks have built a forum for social life. Thanks to these technologies, we can talk to anyone in the world in a matter of seconds and keep up to date with news from friends and family. But what effect does this social hyperconnectivity have on our emotions?
The negative impact of the Internet on this aspect “has been exaggerated,” according to an investigation by the Department of Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley (USA). This work tried to dismantle the results of the famous effect known as the internet paradox (1998). According to him, the use of the Network was related to loneliness, depression and stress.
In this new research, forty volunteers had to keep five guided conversations with strangers through a chat. The objective was to analyze the evolution of four emotional variables: depression, loneliness, self-esteem and feeling of support. The first two were significantly reduced, and self-esteem and supportive feeling increased. The study recognizes that “these results could be due to other external factors”, but sees it as “a remote possibility”.
Amy Gonzales, a professor at the Indiana University Media School, USA, confirms that “talking anonymously, for example to address a problem such as addiction is very helpful to people.” In parallel, in her own study, the researcher concluded that written communication has more impact on people than face-to-face or telephone. “Written communication creates more intense impressions, because it is not accompanied by more information,” says Gonzales. According to this conclusion, “saying ‘I love you’ has more impact in writing than face to face.”
Their results in theory would work for both good and bad. And this effect is confirmed by an investigation by the University of Amsterdam which suggests that the effect of digital social relations is directly related to the type of interaction. Thus, the positive ones increase the self-esteem and the well-being, and the negatives reduce them.
Gonzales, however, admits that the problem of measuring the effect of social relationships is that “it is impossible to separate personality from behavior.” Set an example for those who spend the day looking at influencers on Instagram. “Do these people have a low self-esteem or is it the use of the medium that contributes to that?” He asks, and responds: “There is data that supports both hypotheses.” Because, in the end, “there are a lot of circumstances to take into account,” he concludes.