You are talking about very different things and confusing them, wich weakens you case.
I gave an extreme example to illustrate how consequences online aren't that severe. Honeslty, those extreme cases tend to be perpetrated by people looking for negative attention. A banning or a closed thread is nothing to them except the reaction they crave.
If you're talking your average socially awkward Joe, the internet offers nothing beyond a placebo in the way of social interaction. That's where the problem arise. There are no consequences for being socially awkward online because the fears that cause people to be socially awkward do not exist online. You aren't overcoming the fears, you're just avoiding them and in the end that doesn't help you become any more social in the offline world. Someone can be a total argumentative asswipe online and a complete non-confrontational coward offline because online he's not going to get hit in the face. Yeah, people can learn netiquette, but it isn't going to alter how they handle themselves offline.
Isukun-you may have gotten the wrong impression of the internet commercials you saw on Tv
I'm not talking about commercials on TV or media perception, I'm talking about how we as a society view the internet. We're in the information age and we have a tendency to equate every aspect of our lives with the exchange of information, particularly through the internet. We shop through the internet, educate ourselves through web sites tailored to our interests, get news from the web, watch TV, listen to music, and even meet people. We become so dependent on it, that we make the false assumption that everything we need in life can be aquired through online interactions.
If you want to touch on the media perception, though, it is true that media will help to mislead people on these subjects. After all, most networking companies try to sell internet technology besed on the idea of social interaction. No, they don't show some guy in a dark basement, instead they show happy people in bright places video chatting with people in China or people who fell in love without actually meeting face-to-face. They give it a positive spin to try to encourage more people to stay online to find the social fulfillment they desire. Love, companionship, friends, networking. These are all things they promise.
Now, I think to some extent we are not on the same page here, as well. I'm not saying the internet should be banned or that there aren't a lot of people who use it responsibly and still find their social fulfillment with their real friends in the offline world. I'm saying there is a darker side to taking anything in excess and in the case of online interactions, we not only don't educate people on the possibility of social withdrawal, we seem to actively encourage people to abuse the internet.
A great example of this is online gaming. This started out primarily on the PC market, where it was a good fit since PC gamers generally weren't playing couch co-op on anything back in the early days when systems were huge, TVs sucked, and there wasn't any really reliable way of handling multiplayer on a PC, anyway. The console market, however, was perfectly suited for multiplayer in places where people gather. You have a small cheap system that hooks up to the living room TV, it has simple controls and is designed to be used in places where people gather. The first consoles were couch co-op and came with multiple controllers attached to the system. Family entertainment and social interaction was the big draw for these early, simple games and the market grew out of that. Multiplayer is still a major element in colsole gaming, but now the online element is being pushed more by developers due to financial interests from companies like Microsoft and Sony who want to sell us “the future of entertainment.” So we see all sorts of games now which don't feature any sort of social element to them. Online is the only type of multiplayer, so people have to rely on strangers in many cases rather than actual friends to play games with. What makes this move even worse is that the majority of console gamers don't play games online. Only 30% of Xbox360 owners have gold accounts and they have the highest percentage of online gamers. This means that the developers and manufacturers are intentionally working against the bulk of their audience by forcing people to get online. So now, instead of going over to a friend's house, hanging out with them and playing a game together, you're forced to both stay at home and play by yourself. The common perception of online gaming, though, is that it makes gaming even more social than ever.
This is what we do with the internet, though. We take something that isn't broken and claim it's better online. People who still desire the old and sometimes better ways are outdated and out of it. Everything needs to be instant gratification for the new attention span-less world. Making things easier is fine, but the big problem is that we as a people have come to a point where we assume anything new has to REPLACE anything old. The digital age has already run into problems due to their need to replace everything with internet copies. People lose family records, photographs, things are stolen more easily, writings are lost, people are taken advantage of more easily. Yeah, a lot of things are easier online, but that doesn't necessarily make them better. I have yet to see anybody actually apply this to online social interactions, though.
My example of the study in Australia isn't to show that using the internet causes depression. It was meant to supplement my point that what we do online, and more importantly, what we don't do offline, is going to have an effect on our self esteem and general state of being. So no, it's not just that they're using the internet that makes them depressed, it's that they use it as a substitute for real life.