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Business - Written by on Monday, March 30, 2009 20:00 - 5 Comments

Does the Web make us happy? – Part One

Nearly every prominent element of the human environment – from housing, to family, to diet, to climate – has been implicated in countless analyses of its correlation with human happiness. The Web, and how we use it, however, has not been.

In searching (the Web) for thinkers who have given thought to a correlation between happiness and our use of the Web, I found Jim Stolze‘s Virtual Happiness Project. Stolze’s research question – Does the Web make us happy? – is the focus of this post, the first of two on the topic of the Web and human happiness.

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Stolze postulates that our romance with the Web (which has only grown stronger with the level of interactivity that characterizes Web 2.0) is fuelled by our need to interact with others. Stolze observes that, i) being social makes us happy; ii) the Web facilitates social interaction; and iii) unsurprisingly, we have readily adopted the Web.

If the Web facilitates the social interactions that make us so happy, does the Web itself make us happy? I realize in full that this is an incredibly simple, broad, and highly ambitious research question. It is, however, a question that deserves contemplation and serious academic attention, particularly since any child born today will likely grow up online, bathed in bits, figuratively speaking.

Immediately, a number of examples pro (a CBS report on internet addiction) and contra (an earlier post on how the power of the Web is being harnessed by therapists to treat clients) the Web’s ability to elicit happiness come to mind. 

Is this a debate that comes to the common, but anticlimatic, conclusion, “like anything, it can be good in moderation?” Or will we able to say, conclusively, that humans are happier living with the Web?

Read Part Two



5 Comments

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Marga Groot Zwaaftink
Apr 1, 2009 6:04

As a ‘information junk’ (I love magazines, websites) I really enjoy the web very much. Not only in my profession as conference organiser but also as a private person.

Naumi Haque
Apr 1, 2009 9:55

It’s an interesting dynamic between addiction and happiness. At what point in addiction does happiness turn to dependence?

In terms of the generation that is bathed in bits, I think that the Internet will become so pervasive that it will be seen as a utility rather than a medium of entertainment (if it isn’t already). Think of the increasing number of physical appliances that are Internet enabled. Asking the question “Does the Web make us happy?” in 10 years will be like asking “Does electricity make us happy?” Initiatives like Earth Hour (http://www.earthhour.org)
or big events like the blackout of 2003
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2003_North_America_blackout) are important because they force us to sit back and evaluate the impact of utilities like electricity, phone, or the Web on our day-to-day lives in the West.

Wikinomics» Blog Archive » Does the Web make us happy? - Part Two
Apr 7, 2009 11:08

[...] Last week I introduced you to Jim Stolze’s Virtual Happiness Project. In exploring the topic of the Web and its effect on our happiness more deeply, I spoke with Mr. Stolze himself. He walked me through some of his findings – evidence both pro and contra the notion that the Web is a source of happiness. Today, I share some of the evidence with you. [...]

Wikinomics – Are you addicted to social media?
Jun 3, 2010 15:14

[...] Jim Stolze on the virtues of social interaction on the web, posing the rather esoteric question: Does the web make us happy? Related to this, I recently came across a great series of info-graphics from Retrevo that suggest [...]

Are you addicted to social media? « Not Another Framework
Oct 12, 2010 22:18

[...] Jim Stolze on the virtues of social interaction on the web, posing the rather esoteric question: Does the web make us happy? Related to this, I recently came across a great series of info-graphics from Retrevo that suggest [...]

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