Internet Advice from Ann Landers in the Mid-1990s
By Nick Greene
In the mid-1990s, advice columnist Ann Landers sensed the rising tide of the Internet. She wasn't exactly an early adopter, and Landers made her wariness of the web known by highlighting a long series of letters from readers who shared their online horror stories. Starting around 1994, her column began to feature more and more tales of marriages destroyed by pornography or chat rooms, people lost to full-out Internet addiction, and legitimately frightening accounts of violence and abuse perpetrated by online "friends" when in-person meetings were arranged.
Even in the early days of the modern Internet, a sizable amount of "netizens" voiced their disapproval of what they perceived as unfair and selective depictions of the World Wide Web. Landers, to her credit, didn't really care what they thought. What follows are eight tidbits of wisdom about the net from one of America's favorite advice columnists.
1. To Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, who wrote to Ann Landers to defend the Internet and the people who use it:
"You are a superb senator...As an advice columnist, however, you aren't so hot. The Internet is tailor-made for con men, the lonely and the bored. The word from here is 'beware.'"
2. To a woman who lied about being a man in a chat room and accidentally struck up a romantic relationship with another woman:
"Many people find it easy to reinvent themselves as attractive, rich and young over the Internet. At least you have the decency to be ashamed of yourself for the deception."
3. To "Larry in Monterrey, California" who wrote "in defense of the computer buff who had a thing going with a girl who, unbeknownst to him, turned out to be 12 years old.":
"You’ve made a good case in defense of the computer junkie who was on-line with the 12-year-old-girl. It’s good to remember that strangers always put on their best face when they are trying to make a good impression. Beware."
4. To "Surfers in Basking Ridge, N.J.," who simply asked Ann to reprint an AP article about how people who meet people on the Internet are prone to compulsive behavior:
Ann excerpts 6 paragraphs from that AP article and adds, "Dear readers, if you or someone close to you is an Internet junkie, please consider seeing a physician about prescribing chemical help."
5. To "D.I.S. in Minneapolis," whose husband was addicted to pornography, "gets up at 4 or 5 in the morning to log on," and has joined a support group for help:
"Your husband needs more help than he is getting. Ask your group leader to recommend a competent psychologist."
6. To an L.A. Times reporter who asked Ann if she used the Internet:
"I have no particular interest at all. I do not have a computer. I'm not interested in that sort of thing at all."
7. To a group of "netizens" who convinced Landers to try the Internet to see if she likes it:
"It's a nice toy, as far as I'm concerned."
8. On the benefits of the Internet:
"It's wonderful for the lonely. There are a great many lonely people out there, and it makes them feel that they're a part of the living world. They can talk to somebody. Somebody will talk to them. And I think it's wonderful."