The Internet is one of several social domains in which an individual can live his or her life, and attempt to fulfill his or her needs and goals, whatever they happen to be. … [Specific aspects of the Internet] do not operate in isolation, as main effects on all Internet users; rather, they have their effect in interaction with the individual’s needs and purposes. Like the communications advances before it, the Internet will always and only be what individuals make of it.
McKenna and Bargh, “Plan 9 from Cyberspace,” Living in the Info Age, p.202
Prior to 2000, most social scientists argue that technologies such as the internet are merely one part of our social systems and our lives. Actually, shaping is a mutual process: We shape technology, and technology shapes us, in ongoing interaction that is complex and always contextual. It’ll be a folly to try to portray the internet in a negative light, “awash in pornography” and “causing depression and social isolation”. McKenna and Bargh propose that »
…the Internet does not cause behavior, nor is it entirely good or entirely bad. But in keeping with uses and gratification model, people have different reasons for using the web, which will in turn, affects them differently. In particular, three common uses include shaping social identity, interaction and relational formation. The Internet introduces unique variables in these pursuits.