The Effect of the Internet on Human Behavior

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Effect of the Internet on Human Behavior:

A Review of Correlations between Internet Usage and Behavior

Benjamin Nguyen

Virginia Commonwealth University

The Effect of the Internet on Human Behavior:
A Review of Correlations between Internet Usage and Behavior

You’re sitting at your paper-strewn desk, mindlessly typing away at a report you know you should have started weeks ago.

Ding!

You momentarily give a start—the sharp noise has jarred you from your work-addled mind.  You quickly open up your Facebook app, desperate to escape the atrophic effects of staring at the black-on-white text that is oh so appealing.  It seems that one person has commented on a post that you had made two hours ago about your dismal chances of paying your student loan and being unable to feed yourself with the nominal income you have.

Lol ur so dumb.  Kill urself pls”

            You stare in disbelief.  All you did was explain your quandary in the hopes that someone, somewhere would be able to help guide you with their experience.  And yet, all that your question yielded was a request that you die, and an attack on your intelligence.  You quietly return to work, feeling miserable and wounded, wondering why you were insulted so.

While the internet can serve as a catalyst for productivity, it can also drastically affect the trends in behavior of people—specifically, how positive or negative one is. Since the birth of the internet, the number of people who use it increase each day, as does the amount of hours that each person spends on it on average.  As more people use it, the necessity for internet sites where people can gather—aptly dubbed “social-media” or “social-gathering” sites – has arisen. People join these sites in order to connect with their friends, find new friends, and to share media with each other.  The currently vast number of people who use these sites all share emotions with one another, which leads to not only conflicts, but also harmony and resolution.  Yet, although the internet can contribute positively to life, it ultimately causes humans to lose certain senses and become more negative in how they act.

The internet can undoubtedly benefit people.  It increases productivity by eliminating the need to travel to the library in order to conduct research, provides tools that make short work of presentations, reports, and papers, and even allows for easy peer editing.  Apart from work, it can also provide entertainment.  There exists a multitude of sites created specifically with fun in mind—from game sites to media sites such as YouTube, to social-media sites that allow for easy connectivity between people.  Despite all of its benefits, the internet can cause a great deal of harm to people.

The internet causes people to become increasingly trustful and more likely to take risks.  According to one scientific study, the “likelihood of purchasing on the Internet increases as the consumer’s experience on the Internet increases” (Amit, Misra, & Rao, 2000).  This phenomenon is likely caused by the desensitizing effects of the internet on the human mind.  As a human becomes more and more exposed to a stimulus, they slowly develop a tolerance for it.  Thus, as a person spends an increasing amount of time on the internet, the effects of taking risks on the internet become dulled to their senses, and so they tend to take more risks as they use the internet more.  This includes purchasing products and services online with credit cards and other financial information that would normally be kept secret.  According to the same study, the “likelihood of purchasing on the Internet decreases with financial risk,” yet, the likelihood that a purchase will be made still increases over time.  Thus, it can be concluded that the internet either causes humans to be more willing to take risks, or that it causes them to be more trusting.  Because people are becoming more trusting, other people with ill intentions can more easily take advantage of and exploit the trustfulness of a person.

As more and more people become more accustomed to the internet, other people, who were previously less-inclined to use the internet are becoming more accepting of it.  According to one study, people follow the “technology acceptance model” because it can “reduce costs and increase productivity” (Shih, 2004).  Unfortunately, while this is true, it also means that there are a greater number of people who will “troll” (induce pain, anger, or sadness in others merely to elicit a response), and an even greater number of people who will fall victim to these “trolls.”   These so-called “trolls” thrive on the negative responses of their prey, and tend to be found more concentrated on social sites (i.e. Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc.).  They will post blatant, searing diatribes, and make joking references and comparisons to tragedies such as the Holocaust in order to cause others to feel pain (Godwin’s Law).  As more people become accepting of the internet, more people will become hurt by the trolls.  There is a positive correlation between the amount of time that people spend online and the number of negative comments that are made.  While correlation does not imply causation, because the amount of time spent online and the amount of negative comments found online can be directly related to one another, it can be concluded that the internet causes an increasing amount of negativity in society.

Because people have become more accepting and trusting of others on the internet, it is very easy for them to be deceived and hurt by wrong-doers. A recent study has indicated that the Internet is a useful way to promote health-behavior change (Webb et. al.).  Unfortunately, it also works in reverse.  As people have become more open to ideas on the internet, they have also become more easily affected by negative comments on social-media sites, which lead to depression and a bad outlook on life.  Extreme forms of this negativity can be seen in victims of cyberbullying, who sometimes even consider suicide and become isolated from others, even in the real world.  Although there are sites to help combat online bullies and fight depression and suicide, the amount of negativity on the internet is insurmountable.  The rise of internet trolls further exacerbates the negativity in society, and causes sadness in people.  In essence, the internet causes more harm than it benefits humanity.

Although it may seem like a boon to humanity at first, the internet can also serve as a catalyst for dealing severe damage to people anonymously and easily.  It provides gateways for people to “troll” other people and make them feel negative.  As the amount of people who use the internet increases, so does the number of people who wish to inflict hurt upon others.  In the end, the internet causes people to behave more negatively, become more open to negative ideas, and become more susceptible to attacks.

 

References:

Bhatnagar, A., Misra, S., & Rao, H. (2000). On Risk, Convenience, and Internet Shopping       Behavior. Communications of the ACM, 43(11), 98-105.

“Godwin’s Law, N.”: Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press, n.d. Web. 25             Oct. 2014.

Shih, H. (2003). Extended technology acceptance model of Internet utilization behavior.           Information & Management, 41, 719-729.

Webb, T., Joseph, J., Yardley, L., & Michie, S. (2010). Using The Internet To Promote             Health Behavior Change: A Systematic Review And Meta-analysis Of The Impact Of         Theoretical Basis, Use Of Behavior Change Techniques, And Mode Of Delivery On           Efficacy. Journal of Medical Internet Research.

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