Most say the invention of the internet was good for humanity; not so for social media

Taylor OrthDirector of Survey Data Journalism
March 03, 2023, 10:27 PM GMT+0

Americans are far more negative about how social media has affected society than they are about the internet or smartphones, a new YouGov poll finds. The poll of 7,481 U.S. adults is inspired by a series of Twitter polls conducted last month by journalist Noah Smith — which produced relatively similar results. Our latest nationally representative findings suggest that Americans are divided in their perceptions of how the inventions of these three major technological developments have affected humanity.

While at least three in five Americans say that the invention of the internet (64%) or smartphone (62%) have overall been positive developments for humanity, just 38% say the same about the invention of social media. Only around one in 10 say that the invention of the internet (10%) or the smartphone (13%) have been bad overall for humanity, while more than twice as many — 29% — say this about social media.

The internet and smartphone are the major platforms for social media, yet people who think each one's invention has been a good thing for humanity are mixed on social media. Only 55% of Americans who say the invention of the internet has been good for humanity say the same about social media; the corresponding percentage for smartphones is 56%.

Age plays some role in shaping Americans' views on the effects of social media. Adults 40 and younger aren't that much more likely to see the invention of social media as bad for humanity relative to the internet or smartphone. Older Americans are far more likely to view social media's impact negatively than to view the smartphone or the internet similarly.

The divide can be seen in how few fans of the impact of the internet or smartphones who are older than 40 say social media has been beneficial. Among Americans in this age group who say the invention of the internet has been good for humanity, just 42% say the same about social media — and the same goes for people who are positive about smartphones.


— Carl Bialik and Linley Sanders contributed to this article

Daily Questions Methodology: This Daily Questions survey was conducted online on March 2 - 3, 2023 among 7,481 U.S. adults. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, U.S. census region, and political party.

Image: Adobe Stock (DimaBerlin)