Study: One in Six Say Internet is Bad For Society

John Lister's picture

A newly-published study shows fifteen percent of online Americans believe the Internet is a bad thing for society. The study also found most users generally think the Internet is a good thing in terms of benefitting themselves.

The study comes from the Pew Research Center, which regularly surveys the public about the use of and attitudes to online services. Its latest survey came to mark the fact that the World Wide Web was created 25 years ago, in March 1989. (Source:

Although the Internet itself (I.E.: the physical connections between computers) has been in existence for many years prior to that, the World Wide Web made it possible to link individual pages in a simple way so that any user could easily connect to any page.

Virtually Every Twenty-Something Is Online

The survey began by asking whether people actually use the Internet. It wasn't until the early 2000s that the majority of Americans did so, but now the figure is at 87 percent. Such groups include college graduates, those with high incomes, and those aged 18 to 29.

For the rest of the survey, only those who use the Internet were questioned. Asked whether the Internet was a good or bad thing for society, 76 percent responded with "good", while 15 percent said "bad", and eight percent were unsure.

However, when asked whether the Internet was a good or bad for personal use, 90 percent said "good", six percent "bad" and three percent were unsure.

That disparity appears to be because many see the Internet as having conflicting effects. Some users may be more likely to see factors such as convenience and access to information as personal positives. However, drawbacks such as effects on social interaction or the "digital divide" may be hurting others, especially those without Internet access.

Internet "More Important Than Television"

The survey also found most users consider the Internet essential. Many respondents claim that they would find it very hard, if not impossible to give up the Internet, compared to television or their landline phones. (Source:

Another interesting disparity came with questions about the way users behave on the Internet. While 76 percent said that most users are kind online, only 70 percent said they had personally been treated kindly. It suggests some who have had a bad experience online don't consider that representative of the entire Internet community.

What's Your Opinion?

Do you consider the Internet good or bad for society? How important is it in your life compared with other media and technology? Do you think your own experiences online are typical of the Internet as a whole? Lastly, do you avoid posting comments online because you're afraid that others might respond negatively?

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mjmarychurch's picture

The opening statistic is quite amusing. 15% say bad for every one, but only 6% bad for me. So 9% must go to places and do things everyone else shouldn't but OK for them (gamble?/p0rn?/government websites?).

Just seems a bit inconsistent. That's surveys I suppose.

lilbj87's picture

I say this because of my career as an IT professional. Without the internet, i wouldn't have my current career. I think just like a lot of other things, it depends on the person behind the use of the internet. Of course, for professional purposes, it can only be seen as good. But if you look at the underground world of the internet, it can be by some viewed as negative. I think when it comes to hurting a person physically, mentally,socially, or emotionally it's bad. But there is also a lot of good that comes from the technology. Advances in medicine and quality of life are great examples of benefits of the internet. So it really depends i guess on what perspective you're looking at it from.

magicmusicpro's picture

Generally, the Internet has been good for soceity.

The fatal flaw though, is that there was never any (serious) attempt to police the activities of the criminal & malicious elements, allowing them to easily exploit everyone and become more dangerous than they ever were before.

If those who were involved in the early development of the Internet Protocols had made an effort to leave a simple audit trail in the protocol, it would have been relatively easy to trace and eliminate the vermin that continue to use the Internet to steal from and/or destroy legitimate users. Even after 25 years, noone has made any significant progress toward a solution.

There was a big noise about Internet 2 several years ago -- something that would deal with these issues and be superfast compared to today's Internet. Why do we hear nothing about it now...? Did it go away? Will it only be for the super-rich or the military? Inquiring minds would like to know.