Social impact of the Internet

Social impact of the Internet

The Internet has a profound impact on the world of work, leisure and knowledge worldwide. Thanks to the web, millions of people have easy and immediate access to a vast and diverse amount of information online. This new means of communication managed to break the physical barriers between remote regions, although, nevertheless, the language continues to be a major difficulty. Although initially it was born as a unilateral means of communication aimed at the masses, its evolution in the so-called Web 2.0 allowed the participation of the now transmitters-receivers, thus creating varied and large public squares as meeting points in the digital space.

Compared to encyclopedias and traditional libraries, the web has enabled a sudden and extreme decentralization of information and data. Some companies and individuals have embraced the use of weblogs, which are largely used as updateable journals, already in decline after the advent of social platforms. The automation of the databases and the possibility of converting any computer into a terminal to access them, has resulted in the digitization of various procedures, bank transactions or queries of any kind, saving administrative costs and user time. Some commercial organizations encourage their staff to incorporate their areas of expertise on their sites, hoping that they will impress visitors with expert knowledge and free information.

This has also allowed the creation of global collaboration projects in the creation of free and open source software (FOSS), for example: the Free Software Foundation with its GNU tools and free content license, the Linux operating system kernel, the Mozilla Foundation with its Firefox web browser and its Thunderbird email reader, the Apache OpenOffice office suite and the Wikimedia Foundation itself.

The Internet spread globally, however, unevenly. It flourished in a large part of the homes and companies of rich countries, while disadvantaged countries and sectors have low penetration and average speed of the Internet. The inequity of access to this new technology is known as the digital divide, which has an impact on fewer opportunities for knowledge, communication, and the transmission of culture. However, over the decades a sustained growth has been observed both in the penetration and speed of the Internet, as well as in its volume of stored data and the total bandwidth used in the exchange of information per day, gradually being implemented in all nations.


Online volunteering is the modality of volunteering that is carried out through the Internet. This modality of remote volunteering increases the capacity of organizations in development matters while offering a space for many people to participate in development, something they might not otherwise enjoy.​ One of the key aspects of online volunteering is its power of inclusion. Since online volunteering does not involve expenses or travel, anyone from anywhere in the world can collaborate for peace and development.​


Many use the Internet to download music, movies, and other works. There are sources that charge for their use and others that are free, using centralized and distributed servers, P2P technologies. Others use the Internet to access news and weather.

Instant messaging or chat and email are some of the most widely used services. On many occasions, the providers of these services provide their affiliates with additional services such as the creation of public spaces and profiles where Internet users have the possibility of posting photographs and personal comments on the network. There is current speculation as to whether such communication systems encourage or restrict person-to-person contact between humans.

In more recent times, social portals such as YouTube, Twitter or Facebook, among others, have gained popularity, where users can access a wide variety of videos on practically any topic.

Pornography represents a large part of the traffic on the Internet, often being a controversial aspect of the network due to the moral implications that accompany it. It often provides a significant source of advertising revenue for other sites. Many governments have tried unsuccessfully to place restrictions on the use of both industries on the Internet.

The multiplayer system also constitutes a good part of the entertainment on the Internet.

Effects on the brain

In 2008, the American technologist Nicholas Carr published an article in which he stated that the Internet was eroding the human capacity for concentration and critical thinking, and even assured that the Internet would change the structure of the brain and the way people think. Experts from various fields began to carry out studies and reflect on the relationship between the Internet and cognitive abilities. Some agreed with Carr, but others like Clive Thompson dismissed these arguments, ensuring that whenever a new technology emerged, the same debate took place. These «techno-optimists» claim that the Internet not only boosts brain agility, but also allows people to learn more and faster, ultimately making people smarter.​

Effects on societies

There is an intense debate about the effect of the Internet on societies. On the one hand, there are those who think that the Internet, by favoring the exchange of information, favors the development of citizen participation and democratization. This would be a reason for the Internet Freedom Agenda of the United States Department of State. This belief is supported by the so-called cyber-utopias, who believe that the Internet is itself emancipatory. On the other hand, others, such as Evgeny Morozov, believe that the Internet facilitates mass surveillance, political repression, and the spread of nationalist propaganda and extremist.​

Source of information

In 2009, a study conducted in the United States indicated that 56% of 3,030 American adults interviewed in an online survey said that if they had to choose only one source of information, they would choose the Internet, while 21% would prefer television and both newspapers such as radio would be the option of 10% of those surveyed. This study positions the digital media in a privileged position in terms of the search for information and reflects an increase in credibility in said media.​


With the advent of publicly available high-speed connections, the Internet has significantly altered the way some people work by being able to do so from their respective homes. The Internet has allowed these people greater flexibility in terms of hours and location, contrary to the traditional working day, which usually takes up the morning and part of the afternoon, and in which employees travel to the workplace.

An accounting expert based in one country can review the books of a company in another country, on a server located in a third country that is remotely maintained by specialists in a fourth.

The Internet and especially blogs have given workers a forum in which to express their opinions about their jobs, bosses and co-workers, creating a massive amount of information and data about work that is currently being collected by the California Bar Association. harvard.

The Internet has promoted the phenomenon of Globalization and, together with the so-called dematerialization of the economy, has given rise to a New Economy characterized by the use of the Internet in all the processes of increasing company value.


The Internet has become the fastest growing and most easily measurable medium in history, in addition to being a medium through which many people connect almost instantly. Currently there are many companies that make money from advertising on the Internet. In addition, there are many advantages that interactive advertising offers both for the user and for advertisers.


It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to establish global, centralized control of the Internet. Some governments, from nations such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, and the People’s Republic of China, restrict people from their countries from viewing certain political and religious Internet content deemed contrary to their criteria. Censorship is sometimes done through filters controlled by the government, supported by laws or cultural reasons, punishing the propagation of this content. However, many Internet users can circumvent these filters, since most Internet content is available worldwide, no matter where you are, as long as you have the necessary skill and technical means.

Another possibility, as in the case of China, is that this type of measure is combined with the self-censorship of the Internet service provider companies themselves, the companies equivalent to Telefónicas (Internet service providers), in order to adjust to the demands of the government of the receiving country.

However, some search engines such as Google have taken the decision to threaten the Chinese government with the withdrawal of their services in that country if Internet censorship is not abolished. Although he has subsequently denied that he will take such measures.

To bypass any type of censorship or coercion in the use of the Internet, multiple technologies and tools have been developed. Among them it is worth highlighting on the one hand the cryptological techniques and tools and, on the other hand, the technologies framed in the so-called Darknet. The Darknet is a collection of networks and technologies that pursue the achievement of total anonymity of the communicators, thus creating a zone of total freedom. Although currently it is not usually considered that they achieve total anonymity, however, they do achieve a substantial improvement in user privacy. These types of networks have been used intensively, for example, in the events of the Arab Spring and in the entire WikiLeaks framework for the publication of confidential information. Darknet technologies are in the phase of refinement and improvement of their benefits.​

To fight Internet censorship, RSF decided to unblock nine censored news websites in eleven countries, that is, it allowed them to be accessed from the territory where they were banned:, blocked in Russia; Fregananews, censored in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan; The Tibet Post and Mingjing News, banned in China; Dan Lam Bao, blocked in Vietnam; Let’s talk Press, censored in Cuba; Gooya News, blocked in Iran; the Gulf Center for Human Rights, censored in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, and the Bahrain Mirror, banned in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

Internet in works of fiction

The Internet appears many times in works of fiction. It can be one more element of the plot, something that is used in a regular way as it is done in real life.

There are also works where the Internet is presented as an evil medium that allows hackers to sow chaos and alter records, such as the films The Net (1995) and Live Free or Die Hard (2007), among others. There are other works where it appears as a great opportunity for freedom of expression, for example, in the film FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions (2004).

Disinhibiting effect of the Internet

The ease with which people express themselves on social networks was described by psychologist John Suler, specialized in cybercrime, in his work The Online Dishinibition Effect’. This author explains that the form of behavior is not the same on social networks social than face to face, which is due to the disinhibiting effect of cyberspace. The absence of physical contact, as well as the non-perception of gestures and sensations, makes the way of relating very different. John Suler explains this phenomenon through 6 factors:

  • Dissociation by anonymity. Virtual profiles make it possible to hide the true identity of people.
  • Invisibility of cyberspace. There is no physical contact in cyberspace.
  • Virtual communication asynchrony.
  • Solipsism. The brain creates an image of the person due to the characteristics that it transmits, which often do not correspond to the real ones.
  • Imaginative dissociation. The justification of behaviors through networks is easier because there is not as much awareness about them.
  • Minimization of the state of authority. The fear of being rejected because opinions are not shared by others decreases.

Behavioral changes in networks are directly related to the increase in the number of crimes committed over the Internet. The feeling of security and privacy that this space provides makes these crimes one of the most committed in Spain. According to statistics published by the Ministry of the Interior, in 2011 21,075 crimes were recorded through the networks, rising to 88,859 in 2019, which represents a very significant increase.

Twitter is one of the social networks in which there is greater freedom of expression. This freedom causes many of the Internet users to publish content described as inappropriate that, on occasions, would be included in hate crimes. The misuse of networks can lead to the creation of a parallel identity or to crimes related to sexting, identity theft or phishing, libel and slander or cyberbullying. There is a decrease in responsibility when these types of acts are committed, and the truth is that most of the crimes that are committed through the networks are not condemned, since the Internet is a space in which it is very difficult to prosecute the offender.


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