Psychology of the Internet




The Psychology of the Internet
A Report on the Book by Patricia Wallace

Summary of the Book
Today, the internet is a growing community. Millions of people from all over the world go “online” everyday to check email, research, shop, or even just interact with someone halfway around the world. As this community grows, so does the number of interactions between people. The Psychology of the Internet examines the psychology of new behavior produced by this novel method of human communication. It also delves into the business sector of the internet and how certain companies are using this medium to increase productivity within their companies and corporations.

Analysis of the Book
The book provides several examples of how the internet can affect the quality of an organization’s production. When used in the appropriate manner, the internet can facilitate interaction between a group 24 hours a day and is only limited by the availability of a telephone line. The idea that a person must be in work and at his desk for production is becoming more obsolete as companies realize the potential of the internet.
One impressive way the internet can help companies is the workgroups that can be formed internationally. A workgroup is a group of employees striving to achieve the same objective. In the traditional sense, these groups are formed in a room with notepads for each person to help them brainstorm and meetings at regular intervals until the project is complete. The internet revolution is changing all of that. The workgroups are no longer governed by the geographical positioning of its members. I found this particularly interesting because the idea of having a supervisor in Manila, a Research and Development team in Cebu, and a sales group in the United States is becoming more of a feasible possibility than ever before.
The internet can also help employees overcome inhibitions that they may not be able to in person. This is due, in part, to the amount of social cues that are lost over a computer. In a chat room, for example, the two employees might know nothing about each other, other than the information they provide about themselves. Therefore, any type of social stereotypes (i.e. sexism, racism, bigotry) is less prevalent than if perceived in the real world. If the employees have never met, social irritations may not be as readily triggered than if in person. For example, if I am irritated by a person who stutters when he speaks, the chances that he will do so over the internet are relatively low. This allows me to concentrate solely on the task at hand and not be distracted by insignificant things.
The book speaks of how the internet groups, in the absence of social cues and orders, had to find a group identity online. In other words, the lack of social cues also has its drawbacks. Even if the members of the workgroups concede personal information about themselves, such as their race or ethnicity, the other members might have no physical basis for the connection. So if I wanted to bond with a co-worker who was a Filipino in California, I would more likely do it in person than online. This is due to the lack of human contact and the perception that I am merely interacting with my computer and not a real person.
With this in mind, workgroups must find new bases for forming group coherence. The book speaks of the studying of several different multinational workgroups. All were given the same objectives to be completed in a given amount of time. However, only a few of the groups completed the task while only one group did it in the allotted amount of time. The study showed that the groups that failed lacked consistent interaction. After the initial meeting, the members of the group did not log on regularly to converse with the group. Emails were exchanged intermittently among these groups as well. The book states that the main reason these groups failed was that the interaction, already reduced by the lack of human interaction on the computer, was limited to almost nothing.
On the other hand, the group that fared the best was noted as having the most email interaction and regular group meetings. The members of the group also took it upon themselves