Two recent studies have come to very different conclusions about what the internet is doing to our happiness levels, wellbeing and relationships with one another.
The secret to happiness?
Norwegian researchers at the University of Oslo recently found that daily use of the internet can help keep us happy. In a study of over 100,000 people from all over Europe, it was discovered that heading online every day makes little difference to happiness levels among young people, but can have benefits in later life.
According to the researchers, we are generally more happy and optimistic in our twenties, but this drops as we age. However, using the web regularly can slow down this slump in enthusiasm by keeping us connected and well-informed, and staving off the effects of the mid-life crisis, the study concludes.
Fuelling family breakdowns?
Conversely though, another new study suggests that the internet is the main source of friction in UK households.
Price comparison site uSwitch surveyed just over 2,000 adults, around a third of whom were parents, and found that arguments over the use of web-connected devices are now more common than ones over TV, bills and mealtimes.
A net figure of 20% of respondents admitted they had argued with a family member about the amount of time they spend on devices, putting the net ahead of television (17%) in the household quarrelling stakes. Bills (15%) and choices of what to have for dinner (14%) also lagged behind.
Devices themselves also appear to be causing us to lose our temper with one another, with nearly a third of Brits saying they have taken out their frustration over an internet gadget out on another family member. Withdrawing the use of devices has become the common parental punishment as well, with 31% of parents using this tactic rather than traditional ones like grounding children (15%) and limiting their pocket money (13%).
Can we find a balance?
It’s often been said that the internet is both the best and the worst invention ever. It does a fantastic job of keeping us informed, helps us form friendships with like-minded people and makes communication a whole lot easier and more convenient. In that way, it’s making our lives easier and happier. At the same time, it can bring out terrible behaviour from people who believe they are anonymous, and its often addictive nature is causing us to spend time unproductively.
It’s down to us all to embrace the many positive aspects of the internet and social media, remembering that however much we enjoy it, we should not neglect our offline relationships and responsibilities.