Half of the entire world’s population are online nowadays.
That’s 3.5 billion people or so, connected to the World Wide Web on any given day.
And it has revolutionised almost every aspect of life. Everything from transport systems and education, to communication and socialising rely on the internet.
It connects us, informs us, educates us, guides us, and enables us. The internet is the printing press of our times. Life is, in so many ways, better for it.
But there are undeniable disadvantages of the internet too.
And some of them pose significant challenges to our personal wellbeing, and society at large. As the incorporation of the web extends ever-further into daily life, these problems are worth thinking about, taking into consideration, and protecting ourselves against.
Want to learn more about the dark side of the internet?
Keep reading for 10 primary disadvantages of internet in our lives.
1. Online Bullying
Bullies like the internet.
Their victims are available 24/7. Kids are suffering.
Bullying no longer stops when the final school bell chimes. With a phone in their pocket and an internet connection available, it continues well into the night until sleep comes in rescue.
Social media apps make it possible to send offensive photos and messages that self-delete in seconds and leave no trail. Private messages and photos can be found, shared, and sent around school. Bullying is instantaneous, incessant, and vitriolic.
The social and emotional toll that can take is extreme.
And it’s possible thanks to the internet.
The same goes for trolling.
The lives of people who get targeted by trolls can become real misery.
In serious cases they can even be endangered.
People use the anonymity of their internet to express their frustration, cause a stir, and reap unnecessary havoc for no rhyme or reason. They can, so they do.
And the effects can be extreme.
Fake stories, false rumours, and negative comments are one thing. But when personal mobile numbers and home addresses get shared on the net, it’s another matter altogether.
Innocent, good-natured, kind-hearted people are abused online every day. They’re berated, mocked, accused and threatened by strangers. Lives are ruined for no reason whatsoever.
3. Damaging Content
The internet is full of good stuff.
You can learn anything you want at any given time. You can watch hilarious videos, read inspiring stories, and teach yourself practically any skill- all for free.
But for every positive bit of content, there’s negative stuff too.
You can watch porn, gamble your lifesavings, be radicalised by extremist propaganda, witness horrific acts of violence, and so on.
You might argue that we should, as a society, fight to control and remove such content.
Maybe we should.
Yet regulating the internet is contentious too. Who decides what we see and what we don’t? Who do we entrust with that decision? Who decides what’s virtuous and what isn’t?
And where does it stop?
Once you give someone the authority to censor the internet, a slippery slope can develop. You open the proverbial floodgates. They could use the internet to their own advantage, to control and manipulate; to monitor what’s seen and what isn’t.
That’s a big problem in the wrong hands.
Want to read a post on a similar topic? Here are the pros and cons of robotics.
4. Echo Chambers
Most of us inadvertently self-regulate the internet in our own way.
Think about social media.
We decide what we see and what we don’t. We unfriend people we don’t like, or who express things we don’t like. We unfollow feeds that espouse values contrary to our own.
Before long, you cultivate a feed that reinforces your personal beliefs, ideals, and values.
You only see and hear one side of the debate. You switch off to alternative viewpoints.
It narrows your focus and convinces you of your self-righteousness.
And everyone’s doing it, which lends itself to polarised viewpoints and opinions. It facilitates animosity between different groups and ideas.
It’s also easier for people with ulterior motives to manipulate us. They only have to feed into our personal insecurities and soft spots; to tell us what we want to hear, and win our vote, earn our trust, convince us to give them money, and so on.
These echo-chambers are bad news. They defy reason, close us off to new perspectives and create division.
The internet has changed almost every aspect of life.
Cybercrime is a serious problem.
It costs individuals and businesses countless millions of dollars every year. It steals identities, preys on the vulnerable, and causes havoc in society.
The more reliant we become on the internet, the greater the potential damage cybercrime can do.
It can shut down health systems, influence the democratic process, and hold societies to ransom.
It isn’t all bad! I go through all the advantages of the internet in this post. Be sure to check them out too!
6. Personal Data Problems
Personal data becomes tricky too.
Preferences, tastes, private information you wouldn’t want shared…It’s all harvested by companies who use it for their own personal gain.
It’s a catch-22.
If you want to use the internet, then, in one way or another, you sign up for your data to be used.
Who owns the data you produce? Do you? Do they? Does anybody? It seems another bone of contention that we’re yet to work out.
In the meantime, it leaves us open to manipulation. The Great Hack, on Netflix, reveals that in fine detail. The data people put into Facebook surveys and quizzes was taken, without their permission, by a company (Cambridge Analytica). It was then used against them to sway their opinion in political campaigns, and by foreign governments looking to cause trouble.
It was a heinous breach of trust that had a direct impact on world events.
Brexit. Trump. Russian interference. The rise of the far-right.
The inexplicable. The unexpected. And all to do with our personal data on the net.
7. Constant Connection
Connection to the internet is a double-edged sword.
When was the last time you disconnected from it? When was the last time you went a day without looking at a screen, turned your phone off, or didn’t consume any digital content?
It was probably a while ago, right?
I’m definitely guilty of it. Working online, my entire income is reliant on being connected.
But too much of anything is bad for us. Even something that seems inherently positive will prove toxic in excess.
The internet is hard to disconnect from. After all, much of our life now depends on it. And that’s only going to continue. In time, everything we do may somehow rely upon the web.
That reliance is, arguably, a problem in and of itself. We’re becoming unable to operate without it; our physical, mental and social lives are suffering in the process.
8. Real Connection Suffers
There’s an irony to the internet.
We’re more connected by it than ever before.
We can talk to people on the other side of the world. We can reconnect with old friends; find long-lost family members; witness global events from the comfort of home. And more.
And yet you only have to go to a local restaurant to see how disconnected we are in real, actual, offline life.
People sat at the dinner table on their phones. No eye contact, no conversation. Unmoving, distant, robotic- lifeless.
We aren’t present with each other anymore, and we’re losing the capacity for real-life interactions.
We’re nervous, twitchy, and awkward. It’s a faux-pas to talk to strangers, ask for help, or be alone in a bar without staring at your phone.
Heads up, you might also like these 150 motivational WhatsApp status ideas!
9. It’s Addictive
The internet is addictive.
We can’t get enough. The average American spends up to 11 hours a day looking at screens.
Everything about the experience of the internet lends itself to addiction.
It gives you what you want instantaneously. There are nice flashing lights and notifications. We get a kick every time someone sends us a message or ‘likes’ our latest post.
Throw in the access it allows to questionable content (such as porn) and things get even worse.
There’s a reason we can’t put down our phones.
There’s a reason it’s the first thing we check in the morning.
There’s a reason we feel upset or depressed when we don’t hear from our friends; why we feel elated when we do.
It’s because we’re hooked.
10. Increased Rates of Loneliness, Anxiety and Depression
All addictions have negative effects on mental health.
This one is no different.
Think back to the stuff about being disconnected from others. Rates of loneliness, isolation, depression and anxiety are at an all-time high. Relationships are one of the first things to suffer when addictions form.
We need those close, mutual, supportive interpersonal relationships for the good of our wellbeing.
The internet threatens that wellbeing.
One reason for that is because we can now compare ourselves to others at all times. Alas, the online lives people curate for themselves only ever reveal the good stuff; we see friends, family and acquaintances living what seem like perfect lives.
We turn inwards, see that our lives don’t compare, and feel awful as a result. What we don’t realize is that everyone’s doing the same thing and feeling the same way.
Thanks to the internet (and social media).
Remember the Disadvantages of the Internet
The development of the internet has had profound positive effects on life.
But it ain’t all great. As we’ve seen, there are disadvantages of the internet too. Hopefully, this post has highlighted the main ones.
Got thoughts on this subject? Can you think of other problems with the internet? Drop a comment below!