Let me first say that the internet is often a positive force in people’s lives.
My own organization’s research can paint a rather rosy picture: teens are mostly kind to each other online, technology users have more friends than those who stay offline, more people are online than ever before, etc.
But there is another side to the story.
Pew Internet has also documented the fact that, among other groups, people living with disability and those living with chronic health conditions are disproportionately offline. Some people have only dial-up or intermittent access, like at the library or a friend’s house, and therefore miss out on important conversations or information.
The internet can also transmit false or misleading information. A 2010 survey found that 3% of all U.S. adults said they or someone they know has been harmed by following medical advice or health information found online (1% minor, 1% moderate, and 1% serious harm). Thirty percent of adults reported being helped.
There are emotional pitfalls online, too. A 2006 Pew Internet survey found that 10% of people seeking health information online said they felt frightened by the serious or graphic nature of what they found online during their last search.