The Internet is a worldwide decentralized network of computers. It started as part of the US army network and progressed to become an academic information network, and then, as it is today, a global, open communication network that affects almost every aspect of people's lives (Bargh and McKenna, 2004; Ellerman, 2007; Haythornthwaite and Hagar, 2004). Initially, the number of Internet users was small; however, the number of users is continually expanding and is estimated at more than one billion people today. Another major change has come about through the ease with which the Internet may be accessed and the number of different ways this could be done. Early on, the Internet could only be accessed through a traditional, desktop computer. Today, however, people may enter cyberspace using a portable computer, cell phone, or a pocket PC, with the result that the Internet can accompany them wherever they are. In fact, the Internet has integrated so well into people's lives that, for many, it is very difficult to imagine life without it; they receive information, communicate with others, do their shopping, plan their next trip, take part in a virtual work team, and play games in a virtual community, to mention just a few common activities. The advent of the Internet was initially regarded by many scholars as a dubious development; for example, a longitudinal study conducted by Kraut and his colleagues linked Internet use with loss of social contact, depression, and loneliness (Kraut et al., 1998).
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© Cambridge University Press 2009.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Psychology (all)