Imagining the Internet Project

 Responses to this 2020 scenario were assembled from Internet stakeholders in the2010 Pew Internet & American Life/Elon University Future of the Internet Survey. Some respondents chose to identify themselves; many did not. We share some—not all—of the responses here. Workplaces of respondents who shared their identity are attributed only for the purpose of indicating a level of expertise; statements reflect personal views. If you would like to participate in the next survey, mail andersj [at] elon dotedu; include information on your expertise.  



 
9. Responses to a tension pair on the likely future of social relations

This page includes responses to a question about people's perceptions of the likely future of social relations by 2020. This is one of 10 questions raised by the 2010 Elon University-Pew Internet survey of technology experts and social analysts. Results on this question were first released by Pew Internet Director Lee Rainie and Imagining the Internet Director Janna Anderson in July 2010.

According to technology experts and stakeholders, the social positives of internet use will far outweigh the negatives over the next decade.

They say this is because e-mail, social networks, and other online tools offer ‘low-friction’ opportunities to engender, enhance, and rediscover ties that make a difference in people’s lives; they lower or remove traditional communications constraints of cost, geography, and time; and they inspire the type of open information sharing that brings people together, allowing them to find common ground and leading to more social integration.

In previous "Future of the Internet" surveys, e-mail has most often been mentioned as a key social tool online. In this survey, new applications -especially social networks - were mentioned far more often than e-mail. Other social applications noted by respondents included instant messaging, blogging, text messages and voice over IP.

To download the Pew Internet briefing, click here.


Following on this page is a selection of specific elaborations to this question that were made by survey participants who preferred to remain anonymous. About two-thirds of the respondents chose to elaborate on this question.

To read the responses of participants
who took credit for their answers to this question, click here.

Survey participants were encouraged to explain their choice after they selected one of the tension-pair scenarios. They were asked to “share your view of the Internet's influence on the future of human relationships in 2020.” What follows is a selection of the hundreds of written elaborations from those who did not want to be credited with their remarks:

“Personal relations will get better. But relationships between individuals and society or individuals and government may become troublesome.”

“The Internet and Web have quite negative impacts as the Web moves more into corporate control.”

“It will take considerable effort to insure that the Internet remains a positive and beneficial social force. However, I believe that the Internet/Web has now become a major element of social interaction (at least in the developed world) and there is 'no turning back.' We have to make it a positive force!"

“Instant text-based communication tends to encourage lower respect than face-to-face or voice-to-voice.”

“We are how we communicate. Communication and knowledge are essentials of being human. While mobile cyberspace is new, it's no less necessary than stone-age methods of being human. [As Maurice Winn said:] ‘Watch people with their cyberphones and they hold them near and dear. Taking away a cyberphone is like taking away eyes, ears and voice from human physiology.’ [As Malcolm Matson of Open Planet said:] ‘Because since the beginning of time, the human spirit has been thriving on being able to exchange ideas, emotions, and information, creative output, and freely formed relationships with other people. We call it conversation. Obviously, we have to invent something very special to call it, but it's basically conversation and it lies at the very heart of what it means to be a human. It's independent of any technology, face-to-face, early simple smoke signals. It doesn't matter; it's conversation. Whether or not it's technology in the earliest form of the telephone, or as we've got now, obviously these wonderful wireless; it's conversation.’”

“We will find a whole new set of ‘surprising’ dysfunction behaviors as people become increasingly reliant on instant, fleeting, mediated encounters rather than investing in the (sometimes hard) work of building relationship.”

“The online world is a low-fidelity copy of real life. I think deep, meaningful relationships still require physical presence."

“There will be more types of relationships in 2020. Those to whom we want to be close – family and certain personal friends will continue to be close outside of the virtual world. But, inside the virtual world we will have relationships that aren't necessarily close but are informational in some way, friends with whom we brainstorm about interests, friends with whom we talk about work, and so on.”

“The government will own the information on the social networks and Facebook will be owned by Google in 2012.”

“Human relationships will continue to be expanded and 'redimensioned' as it continues to become easier to find other people across a diverse range of interests. In the past people tended to be confined within narrow social boundaries, but now due to Internet communications, people can find common interests and form close bonds over more obscure, but potentially personally important items. Whereas geography, ethnicity, religion, and narrow cultural groupings dominated previously, the future will continue to expand the ways people come together.”

“The Internet largely is a facilitator and a lens on who we are and want to be. I met my wife on JDate and maintain a lot of friendships through social media, and I think we'll only be able to connect with family in more profound ways in the years to come.”

“It's hard to imagine answering this question without unimaginable speculation of what the world would be like without e-mail, messaging, and other Internet-mediated communication. The Net has been the foundation of my social communication for the last 35 or so years.”

“We are already seeing how much the Internet affects relationships. I think this is going to continue to be an overwhelmingly positive trend. People will be able to stay connected more frequently to more people, and will continue to be able to expand their weak ties networks.

“Life happens where it can – online, offline, and increasingly across both. By 2020 this will be a stupid concept.”

“With no doubt at all, the Internet has increased the quality and extension of my personal social relationships.”

“My world is much broader, my connections stickier and most are shallow.”

"I think this question incorrect forces positive vs. negative outlook – when we need to adapt to the changing nature of relationships: more remote vs. local relationships; more relationships vs. fewer – and they're more niche vs. broad, which arguably compensates for 'shallowness' – this absolutely challenges 'marriage' which historically was a local, broad, 1-on-1 relationship."

“I think I'm an outlier here. As someone who has been the Internet community for over 25 years, my friends are scattered throughout the world and the 'Net is essential to keeping my social network working. I'm not sure that's true of most people.”

“This will be, more than anywhere else, a set of tradeoffs, and though I'm fairly sure that on balance it will be positive, net positive can still mask some significant negatives. To take but one example, the Internet is an infidelity engine, raising everyone's opportunity for affairs outside nominally monogamous relationships to levels previously available only to young, urban populations. Negotiating the resulting changes will involve significant negatives for millions, before a new equilibrium state is negotiated."

“Neither: The Internet, social media, etc., are agnostic and their use and value mirror (and at times amplify) our personal values and mores.”

“We as humans are inherently lazy – and are willing to trade good for something that is easy. Fast food is an example!”

“Human relations are dependent upon communication, there is just a learning curve in the use of new modalities. People slow to get on the curve will become a mainstream isolated group with social, medical, employment difficulties.”

“We're getting more lonely :(“

“The Internet and E-mail have allowed me to interact with many old friends from grade and high school that I might not even have found without all the resources to be found there. It has also been a delightful way to communicate with my friends who are as busy and pressed for time as I. The Internet has not replaced personal letters or phone calls in my life, it has just enhanced them.”

“It would seem as if 2020 will bring more ways to find, share, connect and update the people we want in our lives. We will have both broader networks to turn to to help us through life's crises or uncertainties and more choices (and preferences) for how we stay close to friends and family. Our communications will likely become even more multimedial and interactive with digital greetings complementing in-person get-togethers.”

“I am concerned that too much socialization occurs on the Internet and not in person. This interaction does not develop and refine our social skills like personal interaction does. Our ability to get along with each other may not be as good in 2020 as it needs to be.”

“Via Internet, I am able to take part of this survey and even meet the people once I only read about. Performing my activities I can get in contact with people from all over the world and, as a result, my network becomes richer without affecting my social skills and my ability to have some coffee at my neighbour's.”

“The Internet is already allowing connections with distant friends and family on almost a real time basis. Facebook is a great example.”

“In the future, children will be children for a shorter period of time and puberty will start earlier, since they will encounter adult information and have adult meetings at a very early stage in their life. Children can be reached individually – previously unheard of. Parents will loose their former control over their children and will have to seek other ways of raising their children in safety. In the mobile media cloud everything is expanded and strengthened, both the positive and the negative. We will enjoy the proximity of other cultures and extend our business, but we will also suffer from hyper competiveness, and from the proximity of religious fanatics, who can – through hate mail and death threats – effectively destroy the freedom of expression in other countries than their own. More choice which, if I (additional choice) choose to spend the time making good use of the Internet, will probably – all things considered be a 'positive force.' As well for those who are not mobile (old, sick, poor, politically constrained) the Internet can provide some 'openings.'"

"As above, but you don't allow for deteriorating relationships caused by increasingly invasive and 'mined' personal data. All we need is a handful of media cases of someone assembling *existing* trivial Google search of identity, coupled with whois data, facial recognition in Picasa and all else, to make current ID theft look like kid's work. The likes of AT&T, Jet Blue, Sprint, etc., datadumping ‘private’ (sic) data to law enforcement is only the start. How could they possibly resist the temptation?"

“The Internet has made it possible for me to keep in touch with friends and family across the globe. Today I use Skype to do video conferences with family members instead of using the phone; e-mail instead of letters; instant messaging services to keep in touch instead of SMS.”

"Although the Internet can be intrusive – intentionally and unintentionally – and can cause bad results, I think that the increased communication possible now and in the future will have largely beneficial effects.”

“First, this is true based on the recent Pew study on connectedness and the Internet. In general, it helps me because I can keep in touch so much better with people who are geographically diverse, but also with people in my community. The only concern is that I get awfully lazy about interacting face to face/relying on a sort of cyber buffer.”

"There is one potential negative, e-mail and texting overload, which leads a few teens to lose social skills. But overall most people's lives are enhanced.”

“Communication is now so much easier that I correspond more regularly with friends and relatives. This is a positive for me. I do not use Facebook and Twitter and don't plan to.”

“The Internet's main effect on my personal relationships has been to open another communication channel. Used properly, another channel is never a bad thing. (Used poorly, on the other hand, it can be a problem – I've heard many stories of people who tried to depend solely on a single channel, and they usually ended badly...)”

“Actually neither of these statements are realistic in that I do not believe a machine or a wire can be considered a social relationship.”

“Keeping in touch with friends, family, my son at boarding school – the Internet is the way to go.”

“In general, the Internet has kept people in my generation connected much longer than they might have been as they age. However, there is also the concern that among the youngest generations, the amount of time spent on Internet functions detracts from legitimate person-to-person socializing.”

“Again, this forced response does not leave room for a middle ground. While we will have perhaps extended capability to interact with newfound friends worldwide, will we really know them? Will we understand cultural variations? Will we consider that we have all the answers without really experiencing differences?”

“I don't think the close relationships will change in the future due to Internet, what will change is the friend relationship, the large family relationship, hope for good.”

“By 2020, we will no longer think of ‘Internet friendships’ as a separate thing. We will have friendships, many of them will be mediated in different ways, and such is life."

Technology is a tool that allows people to connect with their friends and will be appreciated for such. Basically, after we calm down, we'll just accept what's going on as just the way things are."

“I would suggest that ‘social world’ will be very different in 2020 to now. There will be greater global understanding and collaboration, with a consequent loss of local nuance and individual relationships. On balance it will probably be positive.”

“It has made contact easier, not different.”

“The Internet has provided connections between people in my life that I would not have considered possible 20 years ago. I have connected with childhood friends, found usable answers to assist family and friends, and has provided the tools to make easy trip planning.”

“OK, so the Internet has not improved my marriage, but Facebook has brought me back into contact with friends long gone, in a very immediate way. I don't see myself meeting new friends online. But the Internet has had a very positive impact on my ability to rejuvenate old friendships and to sustain relations with long-distance friends.”

“Options are good. I don't think everyone cares about Internet relationships, but people seem to care a lot about staying in touch easily with old friends. I personally like being closer to family and friends who are far away through these media.”

“The Internet allows me to keep in touch with a wider range of people around the world than otherwise possible.”

“Difficult to say when the Internet becomes more ubiquitous. For now, it's a pleasant complement allowing me to maintain broader networks, and inconveniences/negatives are not unmanageable.”

“Everyone's online and it drives me crazy, but it's handy as all get out.”

“I agree with the first sentence, and I think this has been true of many people since e-mail was added to the ARPANET, but I can't be sure this will remain true. A bad privacy breach and resulting damage could change my view.”

“Social relationships will change and need to adapt – this will be harder for people born before 1985 but probably not for younger people that have grown up in this evolving shift.”

“When I was laid off, my online social connections were the ones who reached out and helped me get back on my feet. There's a lot of negativity online, but you have to bear some responsibility for managing your online relationships and not getting caught up in other people's drama.”

“The ability to share stories, build communities, archive, collaborate, transcend boundaries will continue to grow and help deepen connections with friends and family.”

“In 2020 we'll still be in the situation where the Internet is a positive force, particularly in relationship-forming. Once too much reality intrudes, though, and people are able to bring their real-world prejudices to bear, this window will close.”

“Both statements are partially true. I have used social networking sites to rediscover and stay in touch with old friends, former students, and distant relatives, but some of my real social interactions (‘face-mail’) have been transformed by the Internet, and not always for the better.”

“The social networks are a distancing tool – like Christmas cards are. It functions to limit our interactions, not increase the depth of them.”

“Many of my multiple circles of friends are significant only because the Internet allows us to bridge extreme distances. My wife is local but my amusement park railroad fanatic friends are quite distributed.”

“In some ways the social networks enable people to have ‘relationships’ with folks they have never met, and even to share ideas or conduct business. But the definition of the ‘relationship’ will change. We will lose some of the intimacy that we associate with being in close personal contact and communication, while being able to expand our network of associates and influencers. This also allows us to manage our identities in a way, to determine to show what we want to a certain group of people (regardless if that is grounded in reality). You see that happening now with people adopting avatars. So yes the relationships will change, but I cannot decide if the balance is positive or negative overall.”

“The ability to time-shift provided by the Internet (e-mail, Twitter, etc.) can help us keep in touch, but fleshly contact is the connection wired into us and can not be dispensed with."

“More than the Internet, mobile communication has been a force for social cohesion.”

“My personal experience so far is of an enriched social sphere. I really doubt it will change.”

“More and faster communication, on the whole, is good. Economic growth makes people (a little) happier. We will understand the world better.”

“I tend to interact the most with friends and family that also use the Internet. I tend to use e-mail instead of placing a phone call to a relative. I rush notes off to my husband instead of explaining what I need/want/etc. Quick has replaced more thoughtful comments. On the other hand, I was able to send over 400 holiday greetings using an e-mail greeting which would not have happened by snail mail.”

“The Internet has put a big check on people playing around – you can quickly find out about someone, the good, the bad and the ugly.”

“This is a close call. I have a lot of interpersonal contact on a daily and weekly basis with a broad circle of friends and relatives, but I also have a large regular contact via text. I think that the multimedia quality of these innovations is likely to facilitate this. But I don't know: so much of what I'm observing on social networking sites strikes me as kind of useless, even dumb, and unlikely to advance relationships."

"I'm a relatively asocial person (a geek). Being framed as a personal question, I think the main effect of the Internet is to have richer communication with my immediate family.”

“Neither alternative is correct. Internet is an instrument for the smart people, it is a substitute for rational thinking and use for the stupid."

“Social networking helps people reconnect and also to make new connections. I've found that a positive – although I can see how some might find that negative. What is harder to tell is what happens next.”

“The Internet will continue to make it easier for individuals to connect to each other. Each step in this process will seem like a small improvement, but in the long run these improvements will allow people to take for granted a new kind of flexibility. Problems of power, inequality, and conflict wont disappear, but they will play out in a new cultural context.”

“Personal friendship, etc. are not the same as 'friends.'"

Social media, particularly rich media such as photos, video, etc., are enhancing my personal friendships, but not expanding my circle of friends. My friendships were established and continue to be established with face-to-face contact and then maintained and enhanced with the Internet."

“Social media and networking can make human connections lost in our normal spheres of influence meaningful again or at least less lost.”

“The Internet cannot be the sole or even major driving force in social relations. It can be used to improve social relations and it can be used in the opposite direction.”

“People feel empowered by the ‘distance’ the Internet puts between them and their ‘target.’ The result is less empathy for the impact on the ‘target’ of their actions. As we increase our dependence on technology this can only get worse.”

“Internet takes time that could have been used in the real world.”

"My little nieces and nephews call my son ‘the boy in the box’ because he can only be with us on Skype for family holidays these days. My parents and my kids share thoughts and photos. I've re-encounterd the summer camp buddies, the kid who sat with me in kindergarten, etc. Yes, it can be overwhelming and at first somewhat addicting, but I think you get to a place where it's a comfort to know that you have a network of people from various points in your life at your fingertips and that keeping them appraised of your whereabouts in a one-to-many fashion is really quite efficient. Like everything Internet, it's an art that we're becoming more proficient at with the passage of time.”

“The Internet will have a small but positive impact on human relations. The larger impact will come from how mature we are in managing our personal relationships and our expectations for their value in our lives.”

“People crave to communicate, and the Internet has been a boon to that!”

“I communicate with people I know on the Internet and this type of communication has a possitive impact on my social life. I think this will grow more true in the future.”

“There are clearly real worries about the impact of the technology on privacy; on our ability to listen to others with different views; etc., but, in general, the Internet has made the world a smaller and more accountable place to live.”

“Internet has given opportunity to make more friends but real friendships are not developing this way.”

“By 2020, no one will understand the differentiation.”

“Tough question since there is no middle ground. I think the Internet has contributed positively to my personal social life but mostly because communications becomes easier. I don't think it has made a fundamental change in my relationships one way or the other.”

“The Internet (which surely merits I not i) is already essential in my social world. Much of what I hold most dear is enhanced by the Internet.”

“The growth of social networking has created strong links between people with common interests, and also created new friendships with people around the globe.”

“I love Facebook.”

“Communications – via text, voice, or image or video – can help to maintain and support, and strengthen relationships. The Internet's various apps can help to enable more natural like communications, once more integrated uses of video into phone calls and text messages takes place. But the ability to have more spontaneity in online communications – e.g. easy to use video; ubiquitous Internet access, simple to use interfaces to devices, affordability of communications and devices – and a degree of comfort with the use of same, are all needed. A new form of 'digital divide' may be evolving between those who are growing up with complete expectation that the Internet and online applications are integrated in their lives, and those who are today's present users, but who are often not fully comfortable with the technology, applications, etc. Opportunities to interact with others helps to build friendships and other relationships – but social skills in the online world may require the same kind of training as social skills in the offline world. If the users of online/Internet understand that ethical behavior, responsible behavior, mutual respect for others, and self accountability still belong in the online world, then the Internet is a tool and resource – that can strengthen and even enable new friendships and social interactions.”

“I find the Internet vastly valuable in keeping my loved ones close. My husband thinks it is a scourge. That makes this a tie, one to one.”

“I don't have much of a social world. It has definitely allowed me to remain closer to family, professional colleagues and students.”

“I am concerned that too much socialization occurs on the Internet and not in person. This interaction does not develop and refine our social skills like personal interaction does. Our ability to get along with each other may not be as good in 2020 as it needs to be.”

“Via Internet, I am able to take part of this survey and even meet the people once I only read about. Performing my activities I can get in contact with people from all over the world and, as a result, my network becomes richer without affecting my social skills and my ability to have some coffee at my neighbour's.”

“The Internet is already allowing connections with distant friends and family on almost a real time basis. Facebook is a great example.”

“This is really a toss-up, some good and some bad.”

“This is starting to feel like an old issue. As more and more of our life gets conducted through digital platforms, it is like asking is ‘life’ good or bad for relationships. In reality, I have very few purely digital relationship and very few relationships that are purely occurring off-line. Certainly we all have ups and downs in our relationships, but I would weigh the capacity of digital media to allow us to maintain close ties over geographic distances as a net plus. In some ways, digital media is responding to some of the forces identified in the 20th century that were breaking down the extended families, alienating neighbors, and cutting people off from the communities they came from as they pursue other economic opportunities. The affordances are there for a much greater integration of lives across distances – witness the telecocooning that occurs through Twitter.”

“Positive, yes. It is much easier to stay connected to friends, family. Colleagues through technology. Texts, e-mails, etc, although not face-to-face, help me ‘be’ there in spirit.”

“The Internet has not a material impact – either positive or negative – on my personal friendships or other relationships because I do not really use any Internet applications as part of those relationships (don't do Facebook, IM; do use e-mail, but just as a replacement for what I otherwise would have done by phone), but I am 48. I think the question is completely relevant for someone 8, 18 or 28.”

"The Internet has allowed me to reconnect with old friends in ways that I can manage in my life – emotionally, physically, and in other ways. That said, I think too many people do not know how to interact with others. Is it only technology? No, I think it's because parents are busier than ever and don't model this behavior well. Of course, technology keeps us separated in many ways."

"The Internet offers a way to communicate/keep up with old friends, colleagues, and even family. My mom commented the other day on Facebook: ‘When I graduated high school, I never saw these people again.’ It's different for my generation. I Facebook with cousins I never see. I use LinkedIn to keep up with old colleagues who I otherwise would lose touch with. I'm on Twitter meeting people I likely never would have met. BUT – the quality of our communication will deteriorate. We'll prefer to type rather than have face-to-face conversation. People, in essence, have the opportunity to become more introverted while still remaining outwardly extroverted.”

“Yes and no. The Internet is extraordinary for finding people, but I do think personal relationships can suffer to the extent that the Internet is used by some, too much, in lieu of personal contact. But one could also say the same thing about telephones, both in the pre-mobile world and the mobile world. In some cases I think mobile phones have had a more adverse effect on my relationships, e.g. a friend who always calls me from his car, talking really loudly because he is in a ‘highway space’ and I am in my quiet apartment on the other end feeling like this conversation is altogether too utilitarian.”

“While it has allowed me to remain in contact with many friends, I fell that as this trend grows people will have less developed interpersonal skills.”

“The Internet can certainly be a powerful social force. But people need to learn how to use it responsibly, set limits and leverage it for good. And I just don’t see this happening. The "always connected" lifestyle is not healthy for human relationships. I'm fearful we are loosing our capacity and appreciation for solitude and reflection which helps press meaning into our daily lives.”

“Social relations are more plentiful, easily accessed and more honest and transparent.”

“We are all connected which will reduce barriers and create opportunities.”

“I think the Internet social connectivity is becoming a substitution for real time, real live human face-to-face interaction.”

If more technolocy like Skype is developed for real dimensional communications to take place and a real time exchange happens this will be true. If only stagnant sedatory exchanges happens, i.e. viewing a Facebook page and updating information then the top statement will be true. We will become viewers and not participants.”

“Global interaction is good.”

“Human relationships always have and always will be dependent on human beings' self-discipline and willingness to focus time and psychic energy on those relationships. Having the Internet as a resource has enabled me to meet more people who share the same hobbies, skills, philosophies, etc. It's then up to me to maintain balance between the time spent on these distance-based relationships and the relationships with my family, local community, etc.”

“These are two different issues in my mind. At the immediate family level, there have been a good many pluses stemming from the Internet: we are able to keep up with each other through a day with e-mail and texting, IMing etc. But when the family is 'together' say in the evenings, we are less together as each has his or her phone, laptop, streaming video device etc. At the extended family and personal social network, almost nothing but pluses. We are in touch as never before and we are advantages for it. At the big picture level, the macro societal level, we are becoming more fragmented. The Internet and media proliferation in general have created a multitude of micro societies – many local, national and transnational, but I am concerned for our ability to create national, for example, consensus on an issue going forward.”

“The Internet brings us closer not farther apart.”

“The Internet has allowed me to network in ways and with people who I otherwise would have not had the opportunity. This has been a most positive resource in my relationships both on and offline.”

“Human attention to their screens will continue to absorb more of their waking hours; there are only so many hours in the day and choices to communicate through technology will continue to rule over personal communications.”

“I have been a heavy user of the Internet since approximately 1994. I have made friends, met my husband, and maintain many of my personal and professional relationships on the Internet. My world would be much smaller without the Internet, and I would feel much more isolated.”

“If the past decade of the development of the Internet is any gauge of its future influence on human relationships, I am confident that it will be possible for human interactions and communications to enhance relationships in ways we have not yet fully comprehended. Overcoming distances and widely divergent cultural and economic conditions could bring about a much more inclusive social outlook and make global cooperation more effective and vital.”

“For me this is true, but I am not sure about others. I suspect a catalytic effect in which the healthy get healthier and the less healthy get worse. I have published about this.”

“While the convenience of Internet technology has provided some convenience, I find that it takes the place of more personal interaction between individuals. I try to limit the influence of the Internet on personal relationships and contacts in order to preserve what I think is far more important.”

“Very important in terms of conveying information especially investigative journalism while the mainstream media remains the captive of corporations.”

“I think the exposure to a wider way of thinking and insight into the reality of how things work will influence people but nothing related to the social Internet will change people's behavior or social relations. Jerks are jerks regardless of platform.”

“Using social media, I have reconnected with many old friends and family members who I had lost contact with. In addition, I have made many new friends.”

“Online social interactions are shallow and at times deceptive. It may require an individual several years of online interaction to come to that realization. However, given the increasing reliance on the Internet for interpersonal communication, it will remain a significant means of interaction, although less satisfactory and reliable than face-to-face personal interaction.”

“I am thankful that social media, especially Facebook, allow me to reconnect with old friends and far-flung family...However, I am a little afraid of the Big Brother aspect of how being on Facebook may compromise my personal information.”

“I'm not so sure that Internet has played a big role in my life. I don't use Internet for that but I'm sure that I can communicate better thanks to Internet.”

“I don't use social media such as Facebook or Twitter, but make extensive use of e-mail and Skype to communicate with family, friends. We share a lot of photos, recipes, etc., and arrange for social gatherings. The Internet also greatly facilitates attending artistic performances. This type of communication is so easy to do from the comfort of my home that it has substantially expanded our social network. This year we sent virtually all our Christmas cards via the Internet. I expect social interaction via the Internet will increase in the future as communications capability increases with wireless portable devices.”

“Internet connections vastly improve relationships as long as all parties participate in it. I have family spread across the country and I gave them web cameras along with instructions to get free access to video connections – despite this, their computers are so outdated and their incomes have stagnated that they cannot use the technology that would make the distance feel less strong. If this trend continues they will not be able to appreciate the value of these improvements in technology. Secondly, Internet connectivity will be useful for those in unstable environments to get their voices heard across the world like what we see in Iran today. This is a key feature of the new technology, which will hopefully aid those who are suffering from oppression to fight back.”

“Although I am an active participant in all sorts of social media, I lament the loss of face-to-face business discussions, the loss of civility that results from the shortened discourse of e-mail and texting, the self-absorption that appears to come with Facebook and its siblings.”

“I come from spending many years working with online community and the Internet has opened up an incredible social experience for me. It's the opportunity to meet people from around the world, stay up to date with family members on Facebook, reconnect with old friends. It only gets better."

"I'm leaning toward a neutral view on this. Technology has not changed the relationships I'm having with my family, friends and colleagues.”

“Social relationships will be enhanced by the Internet, just as the telephone, radio, widespread transportation and other technology re-defined and enhanced social relationships.”

“The phenomenal growth of Facebook is one success measure for how social media has the ability to improve relationships. Many anecdotal comments center around, ‘I've connected with my high school classmates, who I haven't seen in decades.’ While the depth of relationships may not be improved, it grows the sense of community per individual.”

“One of the interesting aspects of today’s social media is that you can follow/friend someeone and not necessarily engage, just observe. The ability to grow your community but control how much or who you engage with, is one aspect of success that I think will be a requirement for continued success.”

“The Internet has become a huge part of my life in a very short time. Meeting people through the Web has stressed some of my physical relationships without doubt – the Web takes time away from physical interactions – but it has also allowed me to meet many people who I would otherwise never have met, and mostly positively. I see this trend continuing especially as virtual reality applications become better and easier to use.”

“The Internet allows me to stay in touch with far-flung friends and family in ways that were not possible in a previous era. As an immigrant, I can retain my connections with family in the ‘old country’ while fully engaging with friends and family in my adopted country. E-mail, Skype and the various social media enhance one's ability to communicate. There are really very few downsides.”

“My family is spread over the country and at times, the world. We keep in touch using Internet tools, Facebook, Skype, e-mail, Twitter and more. Twenty-five years ago, my husband and I backed packed around the world, and the only way to keep in touch in the developing world, was picking up mail at the American Express office in the big cities. We were out of touch with family for weeks at a time. Now, we can call, or Skype from anywhere with an Internet connection and there are lots of places all over the world with this.”

“The Internet has expanded my social interactions to include younger relatives who live all over the world, as well as former colleagues and even high school and college classmates. My contact with each of these groups keeps me alert and devising new ways to communicate with one another; meet face-to-face on occasion; and form new partnerships or alliances.”

“Number of relations is greater an it is up to me to get deeper in the relationship with one or another.”

“Social networking and its popularity proves and relationships can and do develop under the Internet what may imply that the type and form of social relations will evolve not disappear.”

“People will still want to see and touch those around them, but long-distance relationships will be possible and so many will find themselves more involved in more and deeper relationships simply because they can maintain them through e-mail, texts, and video link and do so all in real time.”

“I have not the slightest interest in social networking, and the Internet has not the slightest influence on my personal friendship, etc. But the explanatory wording is poor. To say that the Internet does not have an influence is not the same as claiming that it has a negative influence.”

“I've made great friends, met lovers, the downside is geographic undesirability.”

“Communications technology not make social relations better or worse. It will change how those social relationships operate – but it is up to humans to make the relationships better or worse.”

“While my use of the Internet for social activities has not been overwhelming, it would appear that use of the Internet for social activities lends itself to superficial encounters (both mentally and emotionally). Finding out things about one another which used to be done over sodas, coffees, meals, etc., took a lot of time and we could learn to accept the good and the bad. Now, it would seem that we can acquire immense knowledge of someone without having to make any commitment in time or effort and so if there is something we do not like we simply ‘unfriend’ the individual and move on. Had we spent a lot of time getting to know that person we would have been more inclined to overlook some small eccentricities and/or dislikes and maintain the friendship.”

“People will start engaging with other people online at an earlier age, so local friendships will be of lesser importance, especially outside major where the mainstream used to have such an important social importance. Dating will happen mostly online on Facebook-connected apps, or via Foursquare-like mobile applications. Since meeting people will be so much easier, even for the less social types, gender relationships will improve and mainstream alpha-type male behavior will become a lame cliché of the past.”

“Despite an increased social activity, people will feel even more lonely, as the desire to be unique and different will be even harder to achieve.”

“I have a husband in the National Guard. When he's been in Iraq or elsewhere in the US we have used our blogs, Facebook, IM, and e-mail more than we've used the phone.”

“I suspect you will see a increase in communications and collaboration but not necessarily a improvement in meaningful relationships.”

“Both answers are true for this question. The Internet has made cheating much easier as well as given a trail of breadcrumbs for getting caught. It's as easy as leaving your e-mail open, your phone unattended or sending an e-mail to the wrong person. The Internet has also joined disconnected friends and family members who otherwise would not be motivated to communicate. This has been done by MySpace and Facebook as well as videos posted to YouTube.”

“By 2020 people will do a much better job of curating both their friends and followers (and other terms to be created) and how they present themselves. That makes me think that in 2020 the connections that the Internet make possible will be positive influences on human relationships. In the past you met someone and after that period in your life was over, you generally lost track of them. With the Web and its connectivity, you can keep in touch and follow their lives and discover/rediscover new connections (if you want to...).”

“I'd say this response is neither wholly one or the other way, but marginally more positive than negative as there is a great deal of upside and downside in the ongoing trends going forward.”

“It will remain a positive source on my social world as long as I don't over-share and get off the grid on a regular basis."

“The Internet has been a positive force in my social world. But I'm a social person.”

“The Internet has already made it much easier for me to keep in touch with friends and family, and to lower the cost of these communicative transactions. I think that any negative consequences of mediated relationships have arisen from people being slow to grasp the new rules of engagement, and thinking that they are unseen when doing things online, which is, of course, not true. A large proportion of the cases I have heard of where the Internet has contributed to break-ups etc has been because one party has been deceiving the other or doing something behind their back and has been caught out – I'd argue that finding out is better than perpetuating the relationship in ignorance.”

“I choose this answer because I am adamant that I will use these resources as a tool and not an answer to all social situations – how on earth can the Internet make a marriage better?”

“People have many ‘connections,’ such as those found on social networks such as Facebook or LinkedIn. However, most of these relationships are not founded on friendships but rather associations or acquaintances. People are gravitating away from each other, not getting closer because of the Internet.”

“The Internet has definitely been positive for me as a borderline Gen Y'er. I do think that we had an advantage of growing up without it though. I feel as if the net will need to be controlled in order to be a positive influence on human and community relationships.”

“Social organizations, learning communities, and families have the possibility of staying in touch in many ways, which will deepen and extend relationships no matter where individuals live or travel.”

“For me, the availability of e-mail has enable maintenance of communication with family including a parent with low vision. However, in general, I think the Internet has a significant downside for younger people who have always had it. They do not have the same ability to make personal connections in the real world and the virtual world has definitely contributed to their lack of written communication skills. I am also concerned about so many people who are so willing to put personal information in cyberspace. There is a lot to be said for privacy, modesty, and decorum. The Internet has created an environment in which people seem to have difficulty in establishing appropriate boundaries. Again, the problem is not the tool – it is how we use it.”

“It allows people to stay connected and reconnect because we are all accessible. We are looking more and more at what is considered ‘social’ and there was a time that spending too much time on the computer was considered antisocial, but now that there are so many social media networks and applications, it is anything but antisocial.”

“Electronic communications have a negative impact for two reasons. 1) It isn't a great substitute for those who we are close to that live nearby, yet it tends to be how we feel that we are keeping in touch. Does an e-mail, text or chat session substitute for chatting over a cup of tea? NO! 2) People spend more and more time online rather than interacting with those around them. Families who are surfing, chatting or texting at home, may not be interacting with one another. Is it really a family dinner when all have their mobile devices on the table? No!”

“Neither of the two. For some it will enhance if they have friends using the web, for others it won’t change much.”

“I love to read, converse and look people in the eye when meeting either for work or play. I find that people hide behind the use of electronics as well as communicate with no emotional connection via their links. I miss being able to stay connected with a numanoid ability versus a ‘link.’ The community relations has become one that is difficult for older people and those of an income level not affording them to have Internet to use, finding out events or process/procedures for almost anything now takes time, and no personal touch assisting you to find what you need. Unfortunately answering machines giving bulletins, newsletter and website for cities and events and, God knows, speech applications will still be there but hopefully with AI and semantic training it will be better. But the ability to have profiles on people built so that the communication and intelligence is there will afford people a better link between the Internet, and community worlds."

“Mixed feelings on this one. Ease of communication is enhanced but loss of personal touch increased.”

“Allows partners to easily deceive each other and shop for replacements.”

“I have travelled in more than 100 countries, and lived more than 1 year in 18 others. Technologies that exist right now have allowed me to connect with, or stay connected with, family and friends and colleagues all over the world. In addition, IT has allowed me to collaborate in research and writing and thinking and conceptualizing.”

“Urbanization trends and migration (involuntary displacement as well as voluntary relocation) patterns on a personal level need not trigger isolation from what was home, because of the ability to be part of and/or build social networks via the Internet.”

“I can't say the Internet has harmed or done damage to my network of relationships and in a few cases it's made it easier to keep in touch.”

“The Internet makes staying connected, or re-connecting, easier than ever.”

“I met my husband online 12 years ago. 'nuf said :)”

“I have been able to make contact with people who were in my life 50 years ago. This has enhanced my social interaction.”

“I don't think I'm alone in having many more conversations online with people I would have, or already had, lost contact with. Yet, I also see more people more often than I would had it not been for the Internet.”

“The Internet has led to far more interaction between friends and acquaintances than ever before and I believe that will continue to increase. Not all interactions are positive but not all negative ones are always bad – they sometimes lead to eventual growth. 2020 will have far more video interaction than is the case today and I believe that may lead to less insulting posts.”

“Text-based communications will fall by the wayside to become the plaything of intellectuals and rebels.”

“From a personal perspective, increasing access to all the resources of the Internet makes me feel much more connected to current events, to resources that provide information that help shape my opinions and perspectives, and that challenge my thinking. I believe that I can't help but be a more resourceful, involved, and interesting person who will be more accepting of cultural and individual differences. I am confident that if I do experience difficulties in relationships, I can research resources and options to successfully deal with them.”

“Is it about 'collecting' on your social profile people you know, have met or have only seen? Most probably never meeting them again. Hence wasting time on people who are even not important for you, otherwise you would meet them to have fun instead of typing few words in your status bar to show off that you are cool.”

“Since my friends and relatives using SNS more and more, I think it will be more helpful in the future.”

“I do not think there is only a 'good vs. bad' field of choice here. For many people, the Internet will strengthen ties with existing communities and create new attachments with people who share common interests in different parts of the globe (and coming form different education, linguistic, cultural, and professional background). For others it can mean quite the opposite. These 'in flux' movements are precisely why the Internet is such a different environment – it fits all, it fits all the intentions, it fits all the personalities, it fits all the plans."

“The Internet is one large meeting place, facilitating the maintenance of pre-existing relationships and the flourishing of relationships between previously unknown like-minded people. Traditionally, relationships developed among individuals from the same neighborhood, often developing relationships with people that frequently crossed paths. Today, people are more isolated due to work pressures, long working hours, etc., resulting in a loss of community in many parts of the western world. With the increasing use of online social networking, one can converse with multiple friends by posting content on Facebook. Traditionally this could not have been done without all those individuals being present in one physical location simultaneously. Physical communities will move online to facilitate maintenance of their communities and new communities of like-minded people will emerge to a much greater extent than ever before.”

“Mostly positive, for me personally. But in the population as a whole, the Internet will have both profoundly positive and profoundly negative effects on social life.”

“Staying connected with family, friends, and even old/distant friends, will become increasingly transparent and we will have information about these others without exerting significant effort to acquire it. This will yield many tangible benefits, mainly enabling more and better in-person interactions.”

“Technology connects us today in ways we didn't think possible and will tomorrow in new ways."

“The Internet has provided the infrastructure to support relationships near and far. It is a positive force and does not replace, but enhances, relationships.”

“The Internet is becoming more social and allow us to maintain and enhance relationships with family and friends in real time around the globe.”

“People are beginning to rebel and set boundaries and find balance with the Internet. As more people feel disconnected they will seek greater face-to-face interactions and spiritual meaning, which can only lead to positive change.”

“It doesn't replace the physical world, but it does offer a positive extension that reduces barriers of time and distance.”

“Social relationships will become more horizontal; more relationships but less deep. I think applications such as Twitter exemplify this view, with people Tweeting the most mundane and banal events in their lives to dozens, hundreds, even thousands of people.”

“Six of this and half a dozen of the other. Social networks have expanded and more are able to keep in touch with others, and find the help and advice needed as never before. Texting is a big deterrent in social relations, by those who are too immature to realize that body language and voice inflextion is essential.”

“The Internet has allowed me to stay in touch with family members that live halfway across the globe. Social networking sites offer a virtual front porch where I can easily share updates on my life with cousins and aunts who might otherwise not know what was going on in my life. I've made real-world friends via online discussion groups. We're all learning to manage the social etiquette and emotional aspects of online relationships. Rather than supplanting real-world relationships, online relationships supplement and sustain them in today's busy world.”

“Generating and maintaining relationships without regard to distance is nothing but positive.”

“Actually I do not see it as a dichotomous good vs. bad situation – there has been some good, some bad.”

“For me, the Internet makes social interactions with individuals and groups possible where it otherwise would have been impossible or impractical. At the same time, I can see how being overly focused on Internet socializing can, ironically, isolate a person. On balance, however, the Internet has been a positive force in my social interactions.”

“Internet and game systems are already destroying social skills.”

“The Internet has been an important part of keeping in touch with friends spread all around the world. Similarly, long distance relationships are now easier. At the same time, it also means we may neglect the friends geographically closest to us. With regard to new social networks, this development will have both positive and negative results. Exposing us to new people and new ideas will be partly outweighed by the increasing erosion of personal privacy. The choice between creating and maintaining relationships through social networks and being forced to give up personal privacy will become increasingly stark and zero-sum.”

“The Internet has allowed me to stay in touch with friends and family in other parts of the country and world, that I would have lost touch with without such technologies. I only see the Internet and services like Skype to enhance and strengthen those relationships.”

“I feel more connected with friends and family than ever before. This is due to usage of social networking, e-mail etc. In a way, it has become much hard to lose contact with someone. Once they are in your network, they stay there until you consciously decide to remove them.”

“I have been and remain ambivalent towards the effect of the Internet on my personal relationships. I am more of a face-to-face type of person and do not expect to use the Internet much regarding relationships. I expect the younger generation to increasingly rely on Internet technology for vetting their thoughts with peers, and being connected. That said, the Internet will continue to isolate them from face to face interaction, and this could lead to social changes going forward.”

“Maybe social relations are a function of the media and therefore these questions merely ask from the perspective of the current model breed in the pre-digital age. We currently don't know what friendship is.”

“The Internet has drawn my family closer together. Skype has put me in personal touch with relatives I haven't seen for over 30 years – and with new generations of relatives. Social media have told me more about my ‘friends’ and what's important to them – making me more aware of who they are.”

“People today do not communicate in person. Cell phones predominate all conversations. With smarter phones, most will find even less reason to communicate on a personal, face-to-face basis. There will be a very small circle of personal contact, mostly between family members and very close friends. Most everything else will take place on the Internet.”

“The Internet allows us to connect with people in more ways than was ever possible before. It has not adversely affected my personal relationships but rather has enhanced them.”

“I see the tools as neutral, and build on natural inclinations, not driving changes in personality or styles.”

“Surfing the Web allows you to encounter many more different perspectives which may positively expand your view of your social relationships.”

“There are both good and bad things to the Internet and social networks. But on net, a very positive development, allowing people to communicate more widely, cheaply and on their own terms.”

“Internet has increased connectivity with friends and family – made it easier to make, keep and grow these connections. I will be interested to see if in the next 10 years – physical connections and friendships will be initiated online for me. Currently online enables supports existing networks.”

“The Internet allows for a broader social circle.”

“Relating to others will become even more easy with network sites, e-mail and voice-over-IP. Other face-to-face social relationships will continue to exist.”

“What I like is how it simultaneously shrinks and expands the world, and physically alienates while inviting us to join up in cyberspace. New paradigm.”

"This is hard to answer intelligently – I think the network is overwhelmingly positive, but I have some real concerns about how we're using it as a society. I don't think it's the character of the Internet as much as how much it allows the work world to control more and more of our time.”

“The Internet has given us more connections to others but they are frivolous connections. The Internet and technology has allowed us to connect to others but not in the physical immediate space. Instead people are given extra courage since they don't have to speak to a person's face but rather just post or text. Relationships suffer because of lack of interpersonal connections.”

“Very hard to answer. At a personal level, social networks such as Facebook have allowed me to re-connect with people I haven't seen in a while. But at a macro level, I am concerned that we are becoming increasingly disconnected and our relationships are more and more superficial.”

“The Internet can be a remarkable positive force in social relations, you can connect with family far and wide via Skype, you can keep in touch with friends via social networking sites whom you might have lost touch with over the years. Births, marriages and big relational moments are now shared on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. This will continue to be the case. Social media will continue to proliferate and facilitate increased social relations (hopefully for the better).”

“Connecting to family through Facebook and sending my wife text messages throughout the day to keep in touch are common current practices. With new apps and services, we will continue to use technology to communicate with these social groups.”

“To explain my choice is that the Internet can have postive effects on family because they are staying in touch more, and to share my view of the Internet's influence on the future of human relationships in 2020, the connects should likely to stay the same and the disconnect of human touch be will different in human and community relations. Remember, that sometimes one just needs a hug.”

“The future of human relationships will be about the same as in 2010. However the computer networks and other advances in technology over the decade will allow for people to stay more in touch and more easily (and environmentally) travel distances.”

“While I have lots of ‘friends’ in the Internet world – none of them match the deeper friendships I maintain in the real world. I feel that time is being taken away from real-life, personal interactions.”

“People are still learning how to use different social networks, this learning will open the doors to use this tools in an appropriate way thus improve the positive aspects of social networks.”

“Although I feel I am staying in touch with more people, I also feel I am lacking the personal contacts of a telephone conversation.”

“People like to be connected with others, even if the linkages are weak and the flow of information small. E-mail gave people new tools for doing this 90s. Social networking services continued the trend in the 2000s. And new technologies will emerge (or, perhaps more accurately, existing technologies will evolve) that further our ability to remain loosely connected to people we've known in the coming decade.”

“While I do believe the Internet has been a positive force on my social world, I am concerned about its affect on younger people's social relationships. The Internet has allowed me to move around the country and stay in touch with my family and friends easily. However, younger generations are making friends via the Internet and staying in touch perhaps only on the Internet. Will they have deep, meaningful relationships, or ones that consist of only a few words or letters in a text message or online message? Will they know how to function socially in the bricks & mortar world?”

“I've already met wonderful people via social media that I have now met in person and can't imagine this trend not continuing. Also those people I met/know before social media are using this vehicle to keep more in touch than ever before (or even to get back in touch).”

“It is just what is happening. The students on campus are constantly connected. They have friends they interact with; online will just be another way."

“I expect that networking will make it easier to maintain long distance family relationships, and that as I age, I will be able to stay in contact with younger generations of relatives and friends as well as my peers. This will be positive in my world. On the other hand, the ‘segregated’ nature of people self-organizing their social circles can serve to enhance the negative aspects of the Internet that we have seen – hate groups, terrorists, fringe partisanship, etc. When you only see, hear and talk to people like yourself, you lose some of the benefits of a heterogeneous world.”

“It is easier to communicate with one's children, but if one has a responsibility for an on-line newsletter, then that cuts a great deal into personal interaction with others.”

“The Internet is a connector.”

“While the nature of communication with friends, loved ones and others changes, technology allows us to stay better connected with loved ones – even when they are a great distance away.”

“Privacy is dead, thus so is security. When I post that I'm doing something away from home, somebody robs my house.”

“I'm somewhat mixed on this, but I think that we are becoming more aware of the value (as well as the detriment) that online relations hold. I think we share a lot more socially than we used to and that is mostly positive because it can make us more transparent and honest.”

“I love the ability to share multimedia and to see and speak to friends and family online.”

“The Internet is a communication technology as the telephone was two decades before. It enhances my life by allowing efficient communication with my friends and family. Whether that is positive or negative has more to do with the nature of the relationship and less with the technology.”

“The Internet allows me to stay in touch with people 24/7. If they live in one time zone and I live in another, we can still communicate often and regularly. It's also enabled me to reconnect with people I knew years ago: in college, in the workplace.”

“Focus remains on controlling the quality of social relationships. One needs to actively manage your exposure to contacts originating from the Internet and social networks. Quantity of contacts is meaningless really. It's the quality of communications with contacts that matters.”

“Maintaining personal contact with others will continue to sell everything from cell phones to smart devices of all kinds. Communities of like-minded individuals are becoming a social and/or political force that must be considered by any person, group, or company that seeks to influence public opinion. Personally, contact via e-mail and some of the social networking sites has enabled me to maintain relationships with family and friends as we all travel through life's stages. Full disclosure: As a coordinator of a distance learning initiative at a national government institution, I am biased. I have seen firsthand how electronic communication methods have been instrumental in providing training and enrichment to distant sites, both rural and urban.”

“I love Facebook, Twitter, e-mail for staying in touch with a group of people spread all over the world. Skype is next and why not. It doesn't cost me anything, I can make lists and share general info, event info, or respond or contact individuals immediately, quicker than playing phone tag. I can even chat on all three.”

“My social circle has only widened over the years as a result of the Internet. I'm able to keep in regular contact with my friends in Australia. The Internet diminishes the impact of time differences and distance. I've reconnected with 'long lost' college friends and former co-workers via Facebook and LinkedIn. I even met my boyfriend on Facebook! I have a crazy-busy life but my relationships/friendships have only become richer and my connections stronger. The Internet has provided more social communications options that suit my busy lifestyle.”

“I can't imagine most of my relationships without the Internet.”

“I love the instant contact and connection – with those I'm close to and those I see more as acquaintances.”

“I have never had so many contacts with the family as through Internet! E-mail are quickly written, photos exchanged!”

“Web-based social activity is in the baby steps stage. By 2020, we will find ourselves with closer relationships fostered by the ability to maintain more consistent communication connections. You will interact with your neighbor across the street in the same way you interact with your friend across the ocean. The barriers of distance will be silenced and broader and constant communication will flourish.”

“One's personal, social relationships are influenced by many things other than the Internet, so it's difficult to sort out what role the Internet plays, and it is almost certain that it has both positive and negative effects on friendships and marriages."

“I seems that Internet is more enhancing and addind to the existing relation. It isn't alternative."

“Networking and keeping in touch is important, even vital, to nurture and continue social relationships. As long as your partner in marriage is also "connected", you will fare well. If not, it can be a huge deterrent in your relationship.."

“Well, I met my boyfriend of 18 months online, so....”

“I'm already maintaining ‘some’ connection with more people.”

“I can stay in touch with friends out of state. I can view pictures of them and their children.”

“Overall – a positive force in terms of scope and longevity of friendships. But I don't know about the quality of friendships. I'll have many more friendships connected online – coupled with an expanding sense of alienation because I know so few of them well, or in a way that's truly like a friend.”

“In a recent article in Scientific American Mind an argument was made that lonely people maintain that persona and experience online while sociable people maintain that persona and experience online. Over the past year I've been able to connect with 'long lost' high school, college, and other friends via Facebook – which I see as a positive force. As long as face-to-face connections are created and maintained, social networking seems like it will continue to aid those with broad social networks but may cause more distress for those with more limited relationships.”

“Has helped me keep in touch with people I'd lost due to job changes and physical moves.”

“The answer is not a black-and-white one. On the one hand, people will have more access to their friends and will make new friends, globally. On the other hand, people will stay in the narrow bandwidth of information/friends/social networks that only reinforce what they already believe and do not challenge them to encounter uncomfortable ideas.”

“I hope we aren't talking about how the web ‘isn't the real world’ by then – because it is.”

“The Internet has enabled me to maintain connections with individuals and groups who are geographically diverse, and who I meet face-to-face only occasionally. The Internet itself does not substantively change the quality of interactions with individuals and groups, however it does allow more options for communication.”

“Although more people are making friendships and other relationships with people they have never met, this cannot replace human contact for quality.”

“The Internet and the usage is a empowerment of my abilities.”

“Keeping in touch with close friends, not-as-close friends, and extremely distant acquaintances will be aided immensely by the Internet. Already I (a student) have been able to collaborate with volunteers around the world, including Google employees. We were able to make a disaster-relief map for the Philippines, and acquaintances of acquaintances were able to work on the ground, requesting our data and providing it to relief organizations. By 2020, many real-world projects will spontaneously form and be resolved through this collaboration by strangers.”

“As a collaboration tool used to engage in actions and endeavors I enjoy with others, the Internet is simply an invaluable tool. By 2020 the opportunities and capacity of the programs available will dwarf those already present by a long-shot and continue to improve opportunities for communicating and workings with others tremendously.”

“True. Now itself, many people are chatting to their unknown friends faraway and have no time to talk to their neighbouring friends.”

“I met my wife through the Internet 10 years ago, we have been married for 8 years and have a (nearly) 2-year-old child... kinda a positive effect I'd say.”

“People are always fundamentally people, unless we really get screwed up inside virtual worlds or cyborg-ism, we will still know and value that the Internet is a means of connecting to other human beings. Well, or human-like artificial intelligences: by 2020 we may not care about the difference.”

“The Internet has enabled more, but shallower, personal friendships than ever before. Similarly for dating: Why assign much weight to a particular date when there are potentially others out there online more compatible? Marriage as an institution has been in decline for decades, and the diffusion of the Internet has played only a minor role. But, clearly, the concept of 'friends' is changing, and for the worse.”

“I found my partner from the web. I keep contact with my friends on the Web.”

“The positive impact has been huge so far. I hope that the future does not change this."

“I choose this alternative in the hope that I will continue to use those aspects of the Internet that make sense for my own social situation, and in the belief that this is so for many other people. I don't see people as passive victims of Internet developments, but as active agents.”

“As the first generation of Internet savvy people age they will be more closely connected to kids and grandkids.”

“This one is more complicated and cannot be considered with respect to the Internet alone. The entirety of communications advances, including the Internet have both facilitated new opportunities and changed the nature of real-world society. There are two sides to this coin: ready access to information and auto accidents when people use it; portable distant communications and people often isolated from their immediate environment. This is a change and it is not clear how to make it a matter of better or worse, especially now.”

“If properly managed, technology can be an effective tool for establishing and building interpersonal relationships. Geographic limitations that once existed have diminished in significance and effect.”

“Again, I don't know if they will bet better or worse, but I feel they will be different. Further segmentation and much less real human time together with friends – relationships of all sorts move online.”

>> Click here to return to the 2010 Future of the Internet survey homepage
>> Click here to read non-anonymous respondents' responses to this question
>> Click here to read the news release prepared to announce this report
>> Click here to read brief biographies of some of the survey participants

A project of the Elon University School of Communications
All rights reserved. Contact us at predictions@elon.edu