As of 2016, there were 3.5 billion global internet users. That year, 45% of the world’s population accessed the internet. In the years since, this number has only grown, with more users getting online every single day. Since the internet was first introduced, it’s been changing the way we go about our daily lives, from entertainment and social interaction to business and spawning entire industries. While it’s easy to forget just how large of an impact it’s made, the internet has been changing how the average person lives their life for decades now.
For better or worse, the internet has completely shifted the way people interact with one another on a regular basis. Social media now dominates as one of the primary means of social interaction, which has both its benefits and its drawbacks. Many social media companies, particularly giants like Facebook and Instagram, are dealing with uncharted territories when it comes to content and liability for what consumers use their platforms for.
However, the frequent sharing of media through the internet and the sorts of media that the internet has enabled has completely altered the expectations of the public, even when dealing with media offline. Some entirely new forms of entertainment have been created as a result of internet successes. Escape rooms, for example, are live experiences that draw their inspiration from simple internet games; according to the New York Times, the number of escape rooms grew from 22 in 2014 to 2,000 in 2018.
Entertainment and media aren’t the only elements of daily life that have been dramatically altered by the presence of the internet. Entire industries have risen and fallen as a direct result of online influences. While about $1 trillion in consumer spending is still influenced by phone calls, the digital world has completely shifted how companies have to market themselves in order to succeed. Internet giants like Google make advertising more accessible to smaller business owners and individuals, while also changing the way people search for information on a regular basis. Without keeping up with search marketing, businesses today are more likely to struggle.
However, the internet hasn’t only impacted the way businesses are forced to handle marketing; it’s also directly responsible for major security issues for both companies and individuals. Because people rely so heavily on the internet to store personal information, businesses have to be more careful when conducting transactions. This even includes smaller businesses; 43% of cyber attacks are aimed at small businesses, who often have weaker digital security in place.
There’s no question that the internet and internet-based technologies are going to continue to influence societal development for decades to come. The internet, despite its far-reaching influence, has only been around for a few short decades, and its growth and development continues at an unprecedented pace. As fast as change has occurred in the past few years, it’s likely changes will come even more quickly in the future at an exponential rate. As devices get “smarter” and more interconnected through the technologies and capabilities that the internet has introduced, society will likely continue to rely on it more heavily. However, only time will tell if this reliance will lead to further advancement and social developments, or if it will do more harm than good.
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