September 12, 2022

The Internet ‘solves more problems than it creates’; but Social Media ‘causes more problems than it solves’

Topic: Press Release
Finding No: 9056
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A special Roy Morgan SMS 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%) agree the internet ‘solves more problems than it creates’ compared to 36.2% that disagree. In contrast, fewer than three-in-ten Australians (28.7%) agree that Social Media ‘solves more problems than it creates’ compared to a large majority of 71.3% 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.

Internet/Social Media: ‘Solves more problems than it creates’

Source: Roy Morgan Snap SMS Survey: July 2022, Base: Australians 14+, n=1,315.

Respondents were asked to outline the reasons for their views on the internet and Social Media and there were several key themes that emerged for each medium.

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’.

See below for more detail on the key positive themes that emerged that people consistently identified in relation to the internet and Social Media.

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’.

See below for more detail on the key negative themes that emerged that people consistently identified in relation to the internet and Social Media.

Social Media industry Trust, Distrust & Net Distrust: March 2019 – June 2022

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source (Australia). Risk Monitor. 12-month average to June 2022. Base: Australians 14+. Latest 12-month average, n=21,646. Latest 12 months average for industry, n=1,858.

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:

Block Quote

“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%) 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%) agree the internet ‘solves more problems than it creates’ compared to only 36.2% 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.”

Australia’s Most Trusted and Distrusted Brands & The Future of Media Report builds on the September 2022 webinar conducted by Roy Morgan CEO, Michele Levine, and social scientist Dr Ross Honeywill.

View our latest Webinar on Australia’s Most Trusted and Distrusted Brands & The Future of Media here.

Buy the June 2022 Risk Report here.

Buy The Future of Media Webinar Deepdive Report here.

Ranking the ‘Key Themes’ identified with the internet and Social Media

Why does the internet solve more problems than it causes?

  1. Ease of access to information/ educates/ access to a variety of information
  2. Makes life easier/ so convenient to do many things/ took so much longer before the internet
  3. If used properly, can be good/ generally good but does have issues
  4. Brings people together/ helps us stay connected
  5. Specific sites/ people/ companies are the problem

Why does the internet cause more problems than it solves?

  1. Spreads misinformation/ uninformed opinions/ lies/ fake news/ information that is posted there is wrong from the start
  2. Distracts from the real world/ contributes to social disconnection/ addiction
  3. Problems with bullying/ harassment
  4. Specific sites are the problem/ social media is the issue/ internet isn’t totally to blame for problems

Why does Social Media cause more problems than it solves

  1. Spreads misinformation/ uninformed opinions/ lies/ fake news/ information that is posted there is wrong from the start
  2. Problems with bullying/ harassment
  3. Bad for health/ mental health
  4. Distracts from real world/ contributes to social disconnection/ addiction
  5. Specific sites are the problem/ social media is the issue/ internet not totally to blame for problems

Why does Social Media solve more problems than it causes?

  1. Brings people together/ helps us stay connected
  2. If used properly, can be good/ generally good but does have issues
  3. Ease of access to information/ educates/ access to a variety of information
  4. Specific sites/ people/ companies are the problem
  5. Makes life easier/ so convenient to do many things/ took so much longer before the internet

Margin of Error

The margin of error to be allowed for in any estimate depends mainly on the number of interviews on which it is based. Margin of error gives indications of the likely range within which estimates would be 95% likely to fall, expressed as the number of percentage points above or below the actual estimate. Allowance for design effects (such as stratification and weighting) should be made as appropriate.

Sample Size Percentage Estimate
40% – 60% 25% or 75% 10% or 90% 5% or 95%
1,000 ±3.0 ±2.7 ±1.9 ±1.3
5,000 ±1.4 ±1.2 ±0.8 ±0.6
7,500 ±1.1 ±1.0 ±0.7 ±0.5
10,000 ±1.0 ±0.9 ±0.6 ±0.4
20,000 ±0.7 ±0.6 ±0.4 ±0.3
50,000 ±0.4 ±0.4 ±0.3 ±0.2
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