Impact Internet has had in 25 years

The PEW Research has just released a report on the 25th Anniversary of the Internet, and includes some interesting data on the impact the Internet has had during those 25 years.

Adoption: 87% of American adults now use the internet, with near-saturation usage among those living in households earning $75,000 or more (99%), young adults ages 18-29 (97%), and those with college degrees (97%). Fully 68% of adults connect to the internet with mobile devices like smartphones or tablet computers.

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The adoption of related technologies has also been extraordinary: Over the course of Pew Research Center polling, adult ownership of cell phones has risen from 53% in our first survey in 2000 to 90% now. Ownership of smartphones has grown from 35% when we first asked in 2011 to 58% now.

Impact: Asked for their overall judgment about the impact of the internet, toting up all the pluses and minuses of connected life, the public’s verdict is overwhelmingly positive:

  • 90% of internet users say the internet has been a good thing for them personally and only 6% say it has been a bad thing, while 3% volunteer that it has been some of both.
  • 76% of internet users say the internet has been a good thing for society, while 15% say it has been a bad thing and 8% say it has been equally good and bad.

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Digital technology is viewed as increasingly essential.

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  • 53% of internet users say the internet would be, at minimum, “very hard” to give up, compared with 38% in 2006. That amounts to 46% of all adults who now say the internet would be very hard to give up.
  • 49% of cell phone owners say the same thing about their cell, up from to 43% in 2006. That amounts to 44% of all adults who now say cell phones would be very hard to give up.
  • Overall, 35% of all adults say their television would be very hard to give up, a share that has dipped from 44% who said that in 2006.
  • 28% of landline telephone owners say their phone would be very hard to give up, a major drop from 2006 when 48% of landline owners said it would be very hard to give up their wired phone. That amounts to 17% of all adults who now say their landline phones would be very hard to give up.

In addition to this enthusiasm, a notable share of Americans say the internet is essential to them. Among those internet users who said it would be very hard to give up net access, most (61% of this group) said being online was essential for job-related or other reasons. Translated to the whole population, about four in ten adults (39%) feel they absolutely need to have internet access. Among those most deeply tied to the internet, about half as many (some 30%) said it would be hard to give up access because they simply enjoy being online.

Most internet users think online communication has strengthened their relationships and the majority report the environment is kind.

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Asked for a broad perspective about the civility or incivility they have either witnessed or encountered during their online tenure, 76% of internet users said the people they witnessed or encountered online were mostly kind and 13% said people were mostly unkind.

People were also considerably more likely to say they themselves had been treated kindly than they had been treated unkindly or attacked. And internet users were more likely to say online group behavior they had seen had been helpful, rather than harmful.

  • 70% of internet users say they had been treated kindly or generously by others online. That compares with 25% who say they have been treated unkindly or been attacked.
  • 56% of internet users say they have seen an online group come together to help a person or a community solve a problem. That compares with 25% who say they have left an online group because the interaction became too heated or members were unpleasant to one another.

These are only a summary of the report. You may read the full report here.

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