Living in a virtual world

News, images, videos, information, games, working remotely, meeting doctors remotely, ordering products and clothes, and speaking with your friends on another side of the world. You have access to that all if you have Internet and a smartphone or other device, which can be used to get you online. Nowadays, over 10 billion devices are connected to the Internet in the world. It is a considerable number, especially when you think how young the Internet is and how rapidly it has been getting new users. In 2012 there were 2 billion Internet users. In 2022, the number of Internet users has risen to over 5 billion.

Creative Christians | Unsplash

There is a substantial contribution between Internet access and GDP growth. This creates vast opportunities and chances because it’s worldwide. It gives freedom, a way to spend time, meet new people, and get answers effectively. In most countries, you can do and get most things done through the Internet, like in Estonia. Estonia has declared Internet access a human right and has an unprecedented number of public services for citizens and businesses digitally. They have even electronic in national elections! Most countries are following that pattern in the future and adapting to the Internet is not going anywhere.

Nowadays, most youths start to use electronic devices at a young age, and in 10 years, the time that youth spend with electronic devices daily has doubled to 7 hours online per day by an average Internet user aged 16 to 64 years old. That is a vast number, which increases the whole time. It’s a two-sided thing. It has its pros and cons. One of the best parts is that you can reach someone almost instantly if you want to. You don’t need to be in one place at the right time for that because most people in Europe have a smartphone. Another big thing is that you have so much information and answers to your questions on your smartphone. 

And then those cons. Much research has revealed how social media usage affects our mental health and increases loneliness. Social media usage has been linked to lower self-esteem, poorer sleep quality, depression, anxiety, etc.

Esteban Chinchilla | Unsplash

There is much propaganda on the Internet, cyber attacks happening every day, and personal information from people being collected and sold, not to mention how much-unregulated content is on some platforms or disinformation. At the same time, there are problems with the Internet overall. Citizens of some countries like Eritrea and North Korea mostly don’t have Internet access. Even though some have access, they have “their internet,” which is heavily regulated and censored.

But we can’t get rid of it, so we should try to adapt to that because we use more and more Internet and social media daily, number of people and devices using the internet is growing every day. Overall, the Internet and smartphones are fantastic, but everything has downsides.

“What we found overall is that if you use less social media, you are less depressed and less lonely, meaning that the decreased social media use is what causes that qualitative shift in your well-being,” said Jordyn Young, a co-author of the paper and a senior at the University of Pennsylvania.

Jasse Heikkilä

BBVA Open Mind | How the Internet Has Changed Everyday Life
Forbes | Global Online Content Consumption Doubled In 2020
Healthline | The FOMO Is Real: How Social Media Increases Depression and Loneliness

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