Is the Internet Becoming Too Much of a Thing in Your Life?
There is no doubt that the internet is a valuable tool for business and for pleasure. During the last year, the internet was used like never before. As the pandemic brought with it lockdowns and travel restrictions, the internet managed to bring people together.
Social media proved highly valuable during Covid, allowing loved ones to communicate even while they were trapped thousands of miles away. But with the average social media user spending around 145 minutes per day online – according to Statista – even before the pandemic, is it being used just a little too much?
Hundreds of millions of people enjoy streaming TV and movies, but with cinemas finding themselves massively in debt and facing closures, are people spending too much time online and not in the real world?
Is the internet a useful addition to your daily life, or has it become the be-all and end-all?
For one generation, life without the internet is unknown
Generation Z has never known life without Amazon, Facebook, or the internet in general. Older generations can remember not having mobile phones and wondering how they got by without them. Gen Z however, cannot imagine not being able to download games or go shopping without leaving their homes.
This generation is distinct from the ones that have gone before in many ways. Anyone born after 1997 has not only not known a life without the internet, they also belong to the most racially diverse generation there has been. While this is positive news, they also have a more disturbing statistic attached to them.
Studies on different age groups have shown that Generation Z is the loneliest of all. Could this be due to the amount of time spent on the internet?
How did 2020 change internet use?
Social distancing and lockdowns meant that there were millions of bored people sitting at home looking for something to do. There was a big surge in many areas of the internet including streaming, video games, and gambling.
More people than ever decided to use online casinos to play slots and other games. Google even reported that there were more searches for these websites than ever before. Streaming giants took on millions of more subscribers, and video gaming saw a surge too.
While people found lots of positive ways to entertain themselves during the pandemic, many have continued to keep using the internet as much as they did before the lockdowns. The negative effects of being online too much have been well reported on.
How does using the internet too much affect health?
There were many reports of an increase in mental health issues during the lockdowns. Cases of anxiety and depression were being reported by health officials, and mainly in one age group. Gen Z, the biggest user of the internet, was also the most at risk of symptoms of depression last year.
There are many positive effects of online gaming on mental health, but without balance, these activities can be very negative. An inactive lifestyle can lead to poor physical health and problems such as heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, and worse.
A number of gamers have died while playing video games online for extended periods. Some of these players were online for days at a time, however, one 11-year-old boy suffered a heart attack due to stress while playing Fortnite for a normal amount of time.
While no one would believe a video game itself caused this to happen, is it illustrative of the harm the internet can cause? Social media has put pressure on people to look a certain way, and this can be incredibly negative.
How does social media affect people?
Around 2 billion people actively use Facebook, while Instagram attracts another 1 billion. These are two of the most used social media platforms in the world.
There is no denying the benefits that social media have brought, especially the ability to communicate with friends and family anywhere that the internet is available. Social media has also been a huge boon to businesses with targeted adverts and links to sales pages pushing up sales conversions.
Seeing as 65% of the world’s population has access to the internet, or 4.66 billion people, the benefits for businesses and individuals are obvious. However, there is a dark side to these apps and websites.
At the less extreme level, social media can encourage people to spend more time online than actually socializing, ironically. At the more extreme end, people can feel pressured to post, suffer from a poor self-image, and become victims of bullying.
The second biggest cause of premature death among teenagers in the US is suicide. Nearly 70% of respondents to one study said that their lives were worse purely due to social media.
How has the internet affected businesses?
The internet has helped many traders and businesses to succeed. People can order from delivery services such as Deliveroo, watch movies on demand, and play games.
Many more people are now enjoying bingo online or playing slots, and this is unlikely to affect land-based casinos or gaming halls. Bingo was already in decline in the UK, and the internet, if anything, is giving the game a new lease of life.
However, other online businesses are affecting brick-and-mortar ones. If everyone keeps on using online options instead of using their legs to visit high streets and shopping malls, the country could end up with areas full of empty retail units and offices.
You can now access your favorite TV and movies from anywhere in the world, but should you be able to? The internet is a hugely powerful part of most people’s lives, and it can be incredibly beneficial. However, if all your movie entertainment is derived from Netflix then what will happen to cinemas and the movie industry as a whole?
If you spend all your time on Facebook or shooting your friends in Call of Duty, when do you have time for real social contact? There is no reason to give up using the internet and all that it offers, but like all things in life, it should perhaps be done in moderation.