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Summary:

Is the Internet a positive force in your life or a negative one? Most of the technology experts and commentators surveyed by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project said it was positive, and that they believe it will continue to be so.

Is the Internet a positive force in your life or a negative one? Most of the technology experts, researchers and commentators surveyed in a recent study by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project said that it was positive, and that they believe it will continue to be so. A total of 85 percent of those surveyed by the Center agreed with the statement: “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.”

The Pew Center, along with Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center, asked 895 people from the technology industry — including opinion leaders such as media analyst Clay Shirky, Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, author Nick Carr, futurist Esther Dyson and Google chief economist Hal Varian — to choose between two statements. One asked them to look back from 2020 and state that the Internet had been a positive force in their lives, and one that said the opposite. The survey was posted online, and drew from a list that the Pew Research Center maintains of technology observers.

As Om has pointed out in the past, the Pew Center’s reports are often somewhat obvious in their conclusions. It certainly isn’t surprising to see that people such as Craig Newmark and Clay Shirky — both of whom are deeply involved in the social elements of the Internet — view it as a positive force in their lives. It would be interesting to contrast the Pew study with one that sampled average Internet users about their lives in a post-Facebook, post-Twitter world. Given the highly publicized issues that Facebook and Google have had with privacy and other concerns over the past year, would more people say that the Internet has made their lives worse instead of better?

The reality, of course, is that the Internet is here to stay whether we like it or not, and is becoming more a part of our lives every day. And the growth of Facebook, with almost 500 million users, and Twitter with more than 65 million messages posted a day, is a tangible sign that these services are filling a very real need for many people. Are those and other social-media tools or social-networking services a positive thing in your life or a negative one? Take our poll, or let us know in the comments.

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d): How Facebook Should Fix Its Privacy Problem

Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Flickr user See-ming Lee

  1. It has made a huge positive difference to my life.
    Made a lot of great friends and found some excellent strategic alliances.

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    1. Me too, Simon — thanks for the comment.

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  2. Social media is great for keeping in touch with people, and is a very efficient substitute for meeting “in real life”; but I’m not so sure that is a good thing ?!

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  3. Social media tools have made lives simple and easier to connect. History shows that humans alays used a certain medium to communicate and connect from and now the internet has brought aobut a faster, instant and more reliable way to communicate, get engaged and connected.
    Can you imagine life without the internet? Highly impossible
    So definitely life is now better and promises to get even better in the future

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  4. It is nothing but positive in the same sense as women and men stepping out of the caves. Social is a state of being, not an activity or effort. Social networks and the internet in general are invaluable at helping us be.

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    1. And I love that photo. Moodchanger on a blah morning.

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      1. Thanks, Rohit :-)

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  5. You should read the methodology closely – they basically asked a bunch of social media fanbois whenther they liked social media or not. The real shock is only 85% said yes.

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    1. Yes thanks, Alan — I did mention that.

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  6. Younger generations are losing the ability to communicate face-to-face. I find that really bothersome. I went out to lunch with a good friend recently. We had a nice chat. One table over was two young women. They hardly spoke to one another, rather they texted on their respective cell phones.

    One day I ran into a former classmate. I smiled from across the room and tried to get the person’s attention – nothing. A few days later I get a friend request from this person. Hmm… How many people on here wouldn’t talk to their “friends” in person.

    On the other hand, social networking has been great for my business. I have connections, solely becuase of social media, that have led to mutually-benefical business relationships. I also do some social media marketing, so I’m all for that.

    There are some members of my family that I keep better contact with because of social media. It’s also nice to chat with friends that now live far away.

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    1. Thanks, Terra — I think you have nicely summed up both the downside and the upside of online social networking :-)

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  7. well, i can tell for social networking is better our live , it’s right but i hope from services social networking for example facebook or twitter can more in secure for all user computer internet especially to internet marketer secure tool very important for us. Thank you very much for your coorperation…mangga.

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  8. Do you really believe GigaOm’s readers are representative of the real world?

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  9. Good! Now I can relax! It’s OK that my 15 years old daughter spends an average of 7 hours a day on FB….

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