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The Internet as online confessional

As the number of sites inviting anonymous confessions grow, what do all
these revelations achieve?

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Mom was right: Television is no good for us. Even if you forgo the content and just focus on the activity, there's little doubt that staring at a screen inside your home is not as healthy for a community's well-being as sitting on your front stoop and getting to know your neighbors.

That is, unless your neighbors are inside, too. In the 2000 bestseller "Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community," public-policy thinker Robert D. Putnam blamed the boob tube, among other factors, for disconnecting us from one another, leading to a crisis in American life that is making us more fearful, stressed, unhappy, and less willing to look over the fence to understand the dynamics of who lives next door.

But if television made us hermits, the Internet is making us hermits with access to a fabulous social life. The immediacy of online media coupled with the development of user-friendly technology is creating a culture of status seekers who find comfort with an anonymous nation of friends (Facebook), followers (Twitter), and no shortage of advocates, cheerleaders, confessors, admirers, and confidants we all invite into our homes without ever having to look them straight in the eye.

Like television, the Internet is enabling us to disconnect from the physical world, except it is going one step further and replacing it with one that is virtual.


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