BBC NEWS Sci/Tech: Thousands die on screen – at PC party
By Internet Correspondent Chris Nuttall, Monday, March 29, 1999
“Deep in the bosom of the gentle night… I struggle to fight dark forces…without fear…insomnia…I can’t get no sleep.” Faithless – Insomnia
In the half-light of a darkened theatre – fittingly run by the Ministry of Defence – 300 PC gamers fought each other at the weekend across a corporate-strength network at the UK’s biggest-ever LAN party. That’s where gamers physically meet up and connect their computers together for multi-player clashes on Local Area Networks,
They came from as far afield as Ireland and the tip of Scotland to an army base in Bicester, Oxfordshire. The meeting of the gaming clans brought together the Happy Campers and Qaos, and pitted Pitbull against Thrud in first-person shoot-’em-up Quake clashes which left more than 11,000 screen dead.
Insomnia 99 lasted 55 hours and managed to blow the fuses at a local electricity substation. Organised by BT’s Wireplay with the technical help of Multiplay UK, it may be a prelude to an attempt on a world record with 1,000 gamers hooked up in one venue later this year.
The ‘raves of the 90s’
“An American guy described this as the new raves of the 90s – I don’t know about that – it’s more sedate, but you can see how popular it is,” said Wireplay organiser James Kaye, referring to a scene that resembled Mission Control in Houston more than a dance floor.
LAN parties have been growing in popularity. They were born out of frustration with the poor response times when gamers try to arrange multi-player clashes over the Internet.
BT Wireplay has its own dial-up network and proprietary technology to speed up gaming, but this was nothing to the 10mb/s speeds available over the LAN.
Net jockeys make the connections
If LAN parties are end-of-millennium raves, then “Wizzo” of Multiplay UK is a roadie-cum-DJ of the networked age. His crew, which travels up and down the country organising LAN parties, set up a network powerful enough to satisfy a large corporation in four-and-a-half hours at the MoD’s Graven Hill Theatre.
The 30 servers, including one provided by a player with dual Xeon processors, were linked to six switches, numerous hubs and five kilometres of cabling. Players without an ethernet network card in their PCs could buy one for £20.
“We see every kind of computer here,” said Wizzo. “You even get people bringing their broken ones expecting you to fix them.”
Rizzo and She-Devil from Harrogate were meeting members of their clan, spread from Scotland to southern England, face-to-face for the first time.
“This is getting bigger all the time,” said Rizzo. “The last one we went to at the NEC in Birmingham only had 80-100 people.”
Computers arrived by car, coach or courier. By Sunday afternoon, the theatre was littered with empty pizza boxes, Pringles’ crisps tubes, coke cans and sleeping bags. One player even brought his own chair, which helped him to carry on for 24 hours non-stop at one point.
Ninety participants were under 18 and parents were able to keep an eye on their teenagers through a Webcam on the Wireplay site. One father rang up when he was not able to see his son.
“He didn’t know how Webcams worked,” explained an embarrassed Stitchface of the Happy Campers clan. “So I had to get up and stand in front of it.”
Quake World and Quake II were by far the most popular games, although there were also a number of strategy games being played, as well as Carmageddon and Half Life.
Over £1,000 in prize money was handed out and, to reduce those lag times even more, the latest Voodoo graphics cards and AMD K6 chips were also up for grabs.
BBC News Talking Point: Does surfing make you sad? August 1998
The internet allows people to communicate with strangers in a way that hasn’t been possible before. Many have had intimate relationships in the workplace via email. Now they can with strangers, people are less inhibited and can be quite frank quite quickly in email or chat exchanges. Unfortunately some people adopt a false persona when chatting this can lead to frustration and disappointment.
Brian O’Keefe, UK
I’d like to play devil’s advocate here for a minute, and say that the Net is better than real life because it allows you to interact with hundreds of people who share your interests, to a degree that would be impossible in the real world. For example, one of the many mailing lists I subscribe to is devoted to the discussion of the novels of Patrick O’Brien in particular, and naval history in general. It is crammed to the gills with very intelligent, articulate, and knowledgeable people from a huge variety of backgrounds, and discussion strands (“threads”) can go on for weeks and achieve the sort of complexity that wouldn’t look out of place in a postgraduate seminar. In the real world, I know only one person who has read one of these books, and she has no great interest in naval history. I also know one person who is interested in naval history who hasn’t read any of these books. So I suppose I could get these two people together and go down the pub with them… but can you imagine how tedious and unfulfilling it would be for all concerned? I suppose at this point, I have to say something like “I am a bright, attractive, well-adjusted young woman with a lot of friends, who likes to party and loves her mum”. Well, it’s all true! Seriously though, I agree with the people who wrote in earlier, who said that 1) Lots of things can be unhealthy if done to excess, 2) US citizens are always getting “depressed” about something, and 3) the sample’s so small it’s virtually meaningless.
Em Taverner, England
I am amazed by this study, and frankly, I think the folks at Carnegie Mellon goofed somewhere. Many of my best friends are people I met on the Net. I’ve moved around a lot the last few years, and would have been far lonelier without Net access. For example, six years ago I moved from the US to Germany. Thanks to the Net, I already knew of several people to contact in the area of Germany I was moving to, as well as several people in England, whom I try to visit at least once a year. Without the Net, I would have arrived in a foreign country knowing no one. Instead, I “knew” several people and met up with them after I arrived. Two of those people became my very good friends because we had common interests and enjoyed each other’s company in person as well as online. And anyway, most of the people I know who spend time chatting on the Internet still make time to get out and “have a life”. It isn’t a matter of giving up social contacts to surf. They fit it into little chinks of time throughout the day, or in the evening, so I have serious doubts that the vast majority of Internet users are foregoing active social lives to surf the Net. I suppose similar complaints were waged against the telephone, once upon a time. One wonders what fears our ancestors had about that newfangled invention, writing!
Christine White, France
Excessive usage of the Internet is not good, but then the same is true of anything else. There is certainly nothing ‘sad’ or ‘depressing’ about using it; on the contrary it expands horizons; enables one to ‘meet’ people from different countries; and often enables one to find specific information quickly. And, for certain items, online shopping is very convenient. Why, for example, is it worse than watching TV or reading a book, newspaper or magazine?
Nabil Westcombe, United Kingdom
Through posting to a NG I met some wonderful and very generous people on an important trip to Germany. I arranged free accommodation and was able to benefit from advice from those I “met”. I competed in an Ironman triathlon and needed all the help and advice I could get. My girlfriend and I have been invited back again next year.
Phil Squire, Sweden
Not the sites I like to visit!
Tony Brown, UK
Surfing is being at one with the forces of nature, being in control of yourself and your board, and is one of the best experiences in life. Surfing the Net, on the other hand, is for the sad and lonely. Use the net for research you need to do, for news (good old Beeb), and for E-mail. Don’t waste the rest of your life in front of a computer screen.
Jon Stone, Britain
There are many categories of users. I can say that I am a professional user, therefore there is no emotional link between surfing and my psychological condition. Nevertheless our present tools of communication develop with such speed that all social measurement are just a flash shot of what really takes place. How long will it take before you can virtually almost touch someone through the net. I find studies such as these typically North American. Is there something that does not make a North American depressed?
Roderick Lagers, China
I do not believe that there are researchers who spend so much of their time for this purpose. What next, are the researchers going to say that too much studying can make people sad and disoriented? I learn so much from the Internet. People who are hooked on the Internet should be called ‘Internetworms’ just like bookworms and nothing more needs to be said about that. I do believe that it should be controlled at a younger age (because a child needs to spend a good amount of time outdoors to lead a healthy life).
People should not use the net to socialise. If you stay off the net for a while you will find that few, if any, of your net friends will stay in touch. They are just like the people you meet in a bar. With friends like this enemies are an improvement. I use the net to keep up with world news, the sciences, arts, etc. People where I live are barely interested in anything that goes on in front of their faces, much less in what goes on a continent away. I recently was subjected to American television for a week and was glad to get back to the BBC News website, the Times, the Telegraph and the Guardian. The Internet is not just a source of amusement; it is a tool and communications device. Used seriously, it can improve your life. Used frivolously, it leads to disappointment and depression, even when it doesn’t tank out.
Christopher Hobe Morrison, Middletown, NY, USA
Nothing taken to an extreme is good or healthy. If all you do is surf the web, then it may have an adverse impact on your life. But if, in addition to your web surfing, you interact normally in society, there is nothing wrong with it.
Adil Siddiqi, USA
What’s this nonsense about Internet users being sad and depressed? Believe it or not, I and millions like me get a great deal of pleasure from getting information off the Net, sharing their thoughts and contributing to a good debate. Enjoying any relatively solitary activities doesn’t mean you’re sad and lonely.
Geoff Halsey, UK
The Web makes me sad because it shows me things that I know I’ll never do or ever afford. When I look up “budget” travel sites, I see airfares that usually aren’t cheap at all. Also, I agree that I spend too much time surfing, time that could be devoted to doing something more constructive. I haven’t spent half the time that I used to outside in the fresh air. Why don’t I just log-off and go outside? Because the Internet is a bit addictive to me, with its endless amount of information.
Patrick Carleton, Canada
The Internet is no substitute for a handshake or a blink of an eye. It has to be regarded as just an enhancer of relantionships, and not the only medium of communication. Physical contact remains the ultimate form of human experience, and its place cannot be taken by the Internet, TV, virtual reality or whatever modern technology it might be.
Martin Debattista, Malta
If all the people were given a PC at the start of the study, then I’m not surprised they got depressed. Starting out with a computer can be a stressful thing. I have been Interneting for ten years and have made good friends online and “speak” to quite a lot of long-lost friends and relatives that I would otherwise rarely (if ever) communicate with. I think this report is cobblers.
Paul Bickmore, England
I have made a lot of new contacts via the Net, some of which I’d call friends after two years since I’ve been online. It even made me closer to my siblings who hate telephoning but are great mail writers. It’s only a pity that I won’t meet most of my net friends in real life since most of them don’t even live on the same continent as I do. But some of them I’ve met and some of them are good friends now. So all in all I developed a new way of socialising due to the Net. The only thing which I really skipped because of Net time is watching TV (which is no loss). But I use more than e-mail for keeping up contacts. Most talks are via ICQ or something similar. So, I can really have nearly instant talks, not like e-mailing which is more or less like a faster way of writing snail mail. No direct answer, only an exchange of thoughts and feelings with a longer period of silence in between.
U Bogdan, Germany
As a concept, Net usage can isolate an individual. I play a game called Quake over the Net for, on average two hours a night. During this period I have great fun but I always feel I’m losing out on the social interaction you achieve with other competetive activities. This in the long term, can produce loneliness and sadness.
Roy Matthews, England
For people who are living alone the Net is great – for info, meeting people, making friends and having relationships. For married couples without children, it is good if each has different interests – wife surfs while hubby plays tennis, If couples share the same interests, and they do not have two PCs then surfing by one would leave the other sitting alone and could slowly become a source of arguments! For a family, keeping the kids occupied on the Net is great for the parents! Though once again, if a household shares one PC then a rotation schedule needs to be worked out.. For the parents, surfing would take up time that they should be spending with the kids, and hence this would make them unhappy! It really depends on what the context of one’s life is. I met my current hubby on the Net in 1994 (probably the first Arab/Muslim couple!). We still surf the Net – I at work, my husband at home whilst I am busy with my hobbies.. The Net has enriched our lives. It makes us realise how much more there is to learn.. That is the only sad part of it!!
Nadia Ali, UAE
It is quite a surprise to me. Although it is true that one says less about oneself online, it is my experience that issues get discussed in much greater depth than one would do face to face. It is also true that time delay is much greater in conversations online, but that has the advantage of increasing the thought process time. It is interesting on a personal level to note that my partner and I initially introduced ourselves via e-mail, and in the normal course of events we would never have met at all. We came to know each other through our e-mail communication in a way that we would never have been able to even if we had met face to face. I rest my case.
Richard Neal, UK
Surfing can be rewarding, I’m studying part-time and have found the Web very useful for providing material that complements my studies. (Care needs to be taken here due to the large amounts of useless info.) You can lose hours following links and perhaps what the study found was the depression of those individuals whose mis-use of the Web had caused problems between them and their partners! I think that e-mail is a positive thing. I keep in touch with many friends both in the UK and abroad via e-mail. This correspondence ends up taking the form of long and entertaining letters. I think that far from restricting conversation, the need to think about what you write means that the conversations can be more intense. One should remember that some of the most famous meetings of minds in our history occured in the written form, are we not just seeing an expansion of this genre with e-mail and the Web?
Richard Tilbury, UK
One per cent more depression? Point four per cent more loneliness? These figures are terrifiying. If we took them seriously just about every human activity under the sun – rail journeys, stops at motorway service stations, tax bills, and meaningless dead-end jobs – would be banned immediately as causes of emotional distress. I’m curious exactly what ‘1% more depression’ means in the context of a sample of 96 people. All of whom live in Pittsburgh. Was one person having an off-day, perhaps? Were they the same person who was feeling 0.4% more lonely? I think we should be told… I’m even more curious why anyone bothered reporting this rubbish.
Edward Miles, UK
I think that the Internet concept has been wonderfully fulfilling for myself personally. There is so much going on in the world that it can open up a different world for you. You can find out about previously unknown social activities and enhance your level of general knowledge. However, it would be dangerous to assume that Internet communication with people with whom you have had no contact is better than visual and verbal communication with people in the real world. I use the Internet as a means to retrieve information and communicate with my friends. I certainly don’t try to make new friends. The Internet concept is great, but only when used correctly.
Simon Porch, United Kingdom
The Internet is very useful in schools, colleges and universities. As I am writing this at Southampton University I should know. Of course there is some rubbish on the net but there is also some rubbish on television.
Kenneth Parcell, England
To judge from accounts I’ve read, this survey at Carnegie-Mellon was done under unrealistic and artificial conditions and with an unrepresentative sampling of Net users. However, I will concede that in as much as the surfing experience puts one in ever MORE contact with reality, one is bound sometimes to be saddened, because of the state of the world that one is exposed to! But this is no fault of the Net or of the surfer.
Jon Rutherford, USA
I agree that it is no substitute for real life communication, but it is not Surfing that makes you sad. It’s the substitution of normal social experience with a virtual one that does.
After sitting in front of the computer for a whole day, I feel irritated, tired and would cry for no reason at all. And I have made no friends on the Internet. I just use the e-mail to connect to my friends.
Catherine Ge, China
Surfing fills a lonely hole in my life. Often it is a pointless search through anything that looks interesting on the web, but when the computer goes off, and the “real world” is back, there is a certain sadness.
David Lyle-Carter, Germany
When I surf the Net I don’t expect it to replace any social ties or activities that are part of my busy schedule. Using the Net as a substitute for socialising is irresponsible and ridiculous in that a computer screen cannot and should not replace a human face. When it does, then surfing will make me despondent and listless.
Evan Hansen, USA
I try to surf the Net in moderation.I love it and could easily become addicted to it. However, I make myself do other things too to be a well rounded human being. There is, however, so much knowledge on the Net and it fascinates me.
Leslie DiGennaro, United States
It is not use of the Net that is bringing me down. But it is true I use it more when I am down and lonely. This short-term remedy may be detrimental in the long run since it may reinforce a ‘lonely” attitude and prevent the pursuit of true ways to get out of loneliness and depression, such as socializing with real people. Problems have to be faced and surfing the Net is simply putting them on a backburner, from where they glow the more intensely from being neglected.
Nikos Yannoutsos, U.S.A.
This is probably simply a correlational study which linked time in front of the computer to poor social skills and social isolation. I would propose that it is probably more correct to say that socially inept people spend too much time in front of the computer than that their isolation is caused by such exposure.
James Wright, U.S.A.
I love to surf the Net !! That’s how I found BBC News !!! Now what can be bad about that !! AND .. I met my UK fiancee on the web and that is not bad at all !! Some people can be sad, lonely and depressed in a crowded room so it’s more WHO you are, not WHERE you are.
When you make the right choices, it’s a way to have a nice look at the world and what’s happening. I like it very much. But my time to surf the Internet is limited.
If I bring to the Internet an enquiring mind, I can explore the world’s biggest melting pot of information. If I come as a sad, lonely surfer, what mindset am I in for being made any happier?
Stuart Robertson, UK
I do not think surfing the net makes you sad, perhaps a little unhappy when you get the phone bill sometimes. There are some sad people on the Internet as some visits to some sites have proved.
John Foster, England
I have made scores of wonderful friends all over the globe through the net. The only time the net makes me sad is when I’m away from it for long periods!
Alex Bayley, UK
On the contrary, surfing provides me with information and perspectives, which I discuss with my friends. I watch less TV while surfing. This is not a loss
I think the opposite is true. In the time I’ve spent on the Internet I’ve come into contact with a number of people around the world who I could not have ‘met’ in any other way. As a result, my circle of friends is wider now than ever before. Some of these people, because of the distances involved, will remain as electronic pen-friends, while my relationship with others has included face-to-face meetings. At the very least I’ve made some interesting new friends through the Internet and who knows, perhaps one of the friendships will develop further. It certainly hasn’t made me lonely and sad!
I don’t agree at all. I definitely don’t feel lonely or depressed. In fact, I’m glad that I now have this tool which gives me access to my old friends and helps me make new friends all over the world. I have learnt so much more since the Net came on. I do agree that it’s addictive and can see how one can spend enormous amounts of time surfing. I feel like a better person for having unlimited access to information and people all times of the day.
Srinivas Rangaraj, Canada
The study surveyed only 93 people. With such a small sample, making generalisations about the millions of people on the Internet, doing a huge variety of different things is absolutely ridiculous! While some people might be saddened by the way they use the Internet, people who can make the Internet work for them enjoy useful information and entertainment which can make them more interesting people. Also, I understand the sample were surveyed as they started to use the Internet, so they could perhaps have been frustrated by initial problems of getting used to the technology and the nature of the Internet.
Alastair Carter, UK
While I think that surfing could take the place of other more socially wholesome pursuits, I’ve personally found it to be quite informative and friendly. More people posted congratulations when I passed my exams than from my circle of friends and family! I think that, like a lot of other pursuits, if it becomes an obsession then that’s a different story.
Marna Chow, UK
No it doesn’t but essentially it is – like reading – a solitary pursuit. So, in that sense, although we may meet friends online it is not a “social” pursuit as such.
Jeremy Boot, UK
Sometimes, you can get so caught up in information overload, you just have to keep surfing to get that extra bit of information. It tires you out.
Tim Metcalfe, UK
Yes. When surfing has any effect at all, it seems to be one of alienation and depression. I have never known anyone surfing for any extended period of time who emerged from the experience happier and more fulfilled.
William Lutts, USA
Depends what you’re looking for on the Internet. I am part of an Internet women’s playwright group and to be honest, while I don’t know that I would refer to the others on the list as friends, it has been invaluable for advice and contacts. The support aspect has been wonderful.
Dawn Severenuk, Canada
Does surfing cause depression? Or are depressed people more likely to surf? I think the study should go deeper into cause and effects before making such a blanket statement.
Alistair White, USA
E-mail friendship created through the Internet is no substitute for face-to-face friendship but it does offer a different sort of friendship – one less colored by physical interaction and the unconscious judgements that we all make about people’s physical appearance. In a well-balanced life, Internet relations are an interesting side-show.
Matt Simon, USA
As a long time net surfer, I think the study was flawed. People surf for lots of different reasons, and do lots of different things. It’s like saying that the TV is bad for you. I use both usenet and WWW to find things out – news is of a lousy quality in the US, if I did not use the Net I’d listen to BBC World Service, or read a newspaper. I do research on companies and products, and shop online. I send e-mail to old friends and family back home in the UK. These are all activities where the Internet is faster and more efficient than traditional information conduits. Some people who try and find a “life” on the Internet will be sadly disappointed – the Internet is no substitute for a real life.
Adam Trickett, USA
I can see how surfing the web might make one sad. When I was younger I thought that maybe in those parts of the world that I have not had a chance to get to yet there would be people that weren’t greedy self-promoting little weasels. In surfing the web I discovered the planet was blanketed in a form of low life that seemed to actually enjoy the porn and mindless garbage that passed for entertainment. It was only when I started browsing deliberately and only into those areas of the web that I wanted to explore that I started meeting an extraordinary class of people – generous and friendly and full of life.
Dead Elvis, USA
No, it hasn’t made me particularly sad – I’ve met a few people online. I don’t think it should be relied upon as the only form of communication, but most people don’t just use the ‘phone or solely write letters. But some people are house bound, so should they be denied this new way of communicating to other people all over the world?
If the people responsible for the report were to live for one day in Nigeria, then they would know what the real meaning of depression is, and re-evaluate their study. I think I would have gone crazy ages ago if I did not have access to the Internet and the ability of keeping in touch with the real world, and all the information that those of us living in Africa would never be able to get. I don’t know who these people talk to, but if their sources are bored housewives living in the suburbs in America, they should realise that there are millions of people all over the world who would never meet and communicate their thoughts and feelings if not for the Internet.
Kio Amachree, Nigeria
Surfing can make one sad. I use the Internet extensively at the office, but to spend too much time with it is to become divorced from reality. Simply staring at the monitor for several hours is enough to make one feel spatially disoriented – the view out the windscreen of your car looks far too big after seeing only in 14 inch diagonals all day. But more than that, to waste hours online in chat rooms or on web pages disconnects one from face-to-face relationships. It can become more difficult to deal with the directness of personal contact when one is used to the buffer of a computer, a false screen name, and hundreds or thousands of miles. The Internet is excellent when it is used as a tool to better authentic human relations and knowledge. When we can contact a long-lost friend cheaply and efficiently via e-mail, or when we can access the great libraries of the world from our desktops, then the Internet is a fantastic thing. But we must remember that it is a tool, not a substitute for “real life.” Reality beggars the image – we soon find that our comfortable little digital kingdoms are no match for the overarching power of the solid world, and that we will not fare well in that solid world if all we know is one created by strings of ones and zeroes.
David Towne, United States
Does surfing make you sad? Or is it only sad people that surf? As for making you depressed, well I think it depends on what you surf. At times you can feel like a very little strand on the worldwide web. Given the choice, I’d pick human conversation any day. It’s just not as easy to switch them off!
Rod Maxwell, Scotland
We should distinguish between using the Internet to communicate and using it for mindless browsing. If it’s used for communication purposes then this shouldn’t be too bad but too much time spent browsing around the Net is bad for you. The Internet is not bad. So long as it’s used in moderation for the right reasons – then it’s positively good.
Bobby Elliott, UK
Surfing the web does not make me feel sad since I only use it as a research vehicle. The thing that does make me sad is the fact many people are not developing the real interpersonal skills needed because they feel there is no need to. The virtual communications method is highly “filtered” or edited. The level of interaction is very controlled. The need to respond and negotiate on a real time basis is not required.
L. Fong, USA
“Surfing” does get me worked up/frustrated when downloading takes to long or congestion makes the my connection slow. But by itself, I don’t think the Internet has made me “unhappy” in any way. I do sometimes wish I had more time to “surf” – and at other times I wonder if I waste too much time on the Internet and ought to be doing something more obviously constructive with my time.
Samir Prakash, UK/India
Surfing only upsets non-surfers. It broadens people’s outlook on the world and is a mine of information. It is a tool to use not a way of life. Surfing can be a wholesome and uplifting experience. Researchers have an axe to grind, they also have to justify their existence.
It’s a link with my home country. The best way to read a couple of newspaper pages in my own language – this can make me nostalgic but I am sadder if I cannot keep in touch.
Vale R, UK
The Web is a great way to get children involved in the planning of family trips, such as vacations (holidays) and one-day trips to museums or science centers. So, for a family that uses it wisely, the Net may increase happiness.
Mark Hinckley, United States
On the contrary, it allows interaction with people that wouldn’t have been possible a few years ago. I actually met a lot of new friends in the UK via the Web (West Ham United Chat). What really makes me sad or rather mad is my phone bill due to my Internet commitment! Thank you very much, German Telekom!!!
Joerg Estelmann, West Germany
It is not the surfing that makes you sad but the other factors that make you go surfing. If one has enough things to keep oneself occupied then there is no time for surfing.