A Roy Morgan survey conducted in conjunction with the latest Risk Monitor data for the 12 months to June 2022 shows an unambiguous difference between how Australians regard the internet compared to their views on Social Media.
Almost two-thirds of Australians (63.8 per cent) agree the internet ‘solves more problems than it creates’ compared to 36.2 per cent that disagree. In contrast, fewer than three-in-ten Australians (28.7 per cent) agree that social media ‘solves more problems than it creates’ compared to a large majority of 71.3 per cent that disagree.
The results are almost a mirror image of each other, and the reasons given by Australians for these results illustrate the different ways Australians perceive of these two closely related mediums.
Key themes for those who say the Internet/Social Media ‘solves more problems than it creates’
The leading positive themes people identified as ‘problems that the internet solves’ are that it provides ‘Ease of access to information, education or access to a variety of information’ and that it ‘Makes life easier, is convenient to do many things, or things took so much longer before the internet’.
Some verbatim comments from respondents include:
‘Allows instantaneous connection between people regardless of location, greater information sharing, access to diverse perspectives and real time updates for important news/ events. All of which provide an incredible benefit’.
‘Internet provides access to information; knowledge and learning is more accessible; telehealth provides more access especially for remote and rural populations; interconnectedness brings social issues into public view.’
‘It enables communication. The problems have always existed because they are caused by people, not the medium of communication.’’
The key positive themes people identified as ‘problems that social media solves’ are that it ‘Brings people together, it helps us stay connected’ and ‘If used properly it can be good, and generally is good, but it does have issues’.
Key themes for those who say the Internet/ Social Media ‘causes more problems than it solves’
The key negative themes that emerged for those say Social Media ‘causes more problems than it solves’ are that it ‘Spreads misinformation, has uninformed opinions, lies, fake news, or information that is posted there is wrong from the start’, it has ‘Problems with bullying and harassment’ and that it can be ‘Bad for health and especially mental health’.
Some verbatim comments from respondents include:
‘Social media facilitates the spread of misinformation and foments political polarisation and radicalization through the echo chamber effect. News and current affairs are condensed into digestible and shareable nuggets devoid of nuance or objectivity.’
‘In the drive for engagement, social media companies enjoy better metrics from divisive or misleading statements than unifying or informative ones, with no incentive to provide a better or more positive form of engagement.’
‘People can say defamatory, cruel and otherwise unacceptable things without fear of consequence or accountability.’
Themes that emerged as ‘problems that the internet causes’ were similar and the most common was that it ‘Spreads misinformation, uninformed opinions, lies, fake news, or wrong information’ (same as social media) followed by that it ‘distracts from the real world, or contributes to social disconnection and addiction’.
Social Media is the most distrusted industry in Australia in 2022
Social media is the most distrusted industry in Australia in the 12 months to June 2022 with extremely low trust levels and significant distrust levels. New lows were recorded in early 2022, following a steady increase in distrust since mid-2019, although there are now tentative signs of a decrease in distrust in the last few months.
Distrust in social media is driven mainly by Australians in the key demographic of people aged between 25-49, with the sector receiving overwhelming distrust scores.
Trust in the industry is also extremely low across other age groups. Facebook/Meta receives most of the industry mentions and is primarily responsible for the social media sector’s high distrust scores.
Roy Morgan CEO Michele Levine says the different perspectives people hold on the internet and social media are starkly illustrated by the results of this survey which show most Australians believe social media creates far more problems than it solves.
Levine said: “The social media industry continues to face a high level of distrust that contrasts with the generally positive view on the internet more broadly. Strikingly, only around a quarter of Australians, 28.7%, agree social media ‘solves more problems than it creates’.
“A clear majority of Australians (71.3 per cent) disagree with that contention and believe social media actually creates far more problems than it solves. These results align closely with the latest results from the Roy Morgan Risk Monitor for the year to June 2022 which shows that social media is the most distrusted industry in Australia with easily the highest Net Distrust Score.
“When asked to explain why they believe Social Media ‘causes more problems than it solves’ people frequently mention that it ‘spreads misinformation, lies and fake news’, it has ‘problems with bullying and harassment’ and it can be ‘bad for health, and especially mental health’.
“In contrast, the benefits of the internet generally far outweigh the pitfalls identified by Australians. In the same poll nearly two-thirds of respondents (63.8 per cent) agree the internet ‘solves more problems than it creates’ compared to only 36.2 per cent who disagree.
“The benefits of the internet most frequently mentioned by people are that it allows ‘ease of access to a wide variety of information and it educates’ and that it ‘makes life easier, so convenient to do many things which took so much longer before the internet’.
“The poor image of Social Media in the eyes of the public presents a huge challenge for the leading companies in the industry such as Meta (Facebook), Twitter and TikTok as they seek to re-build the value of their brand equity.
“Distrust starts with doubt and suspicion and quickly accelerates to fear and action. This is when customers begin to desert a brand. A recent example is AMP and how soaring levels of distrust all but destroyed its share price and market capitalisation.
“We are often asked how do you rebuild trust? We tell our clients you cannot rebuild trust until you have neutralised distrust.”
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