Being Online is Actually Good for You

New study shows having internet access leads to better wellbeing.

Using the internet is good for your sense of wellbeing.

(GaudiLab /

Everywhere you look, you can find headlines about digital detoxes and limiting screen time. But now, instead of joining the naysayers, a new study published in the May 2024 issue of the journal Technology, Mind, and Behavior is turning that idea on its head.

“Nearly everyone seems to think that internet-powered technologies are driving an epidemic of ill-being and mental health problems,” lead study author Dr. Matti Vuorre, assistant professor of social psychology at Tilburg University in the Netherlands, told CNN. “Our study of over two million individuals from 168 countries runs contrary to this idea.”

Internet access and wellbeing
The study found that internet access and usage was consistently linked to positive wellbeing, reported the BBC. The researchers from the Oxford Internet Institute (OII) analyzed data that was collected between 2006 and 2021 from people aged 15 to 99 from around the globe.

The study did not look at social media use, which is a big part of the recent debate about online safety and use, especially in young people, but took  a much broader approach that was about internet access. The study asked the question: “Do individuals who have access and actively use the internet report greater or lower levels of wellbeing than those who do not?”

To clarify the answers to the question, the researchers looked at eight indicators of wellbeing that included life satisfaction, positive and negative experiences, as well as community wellbeing using nearly 34,000 different statistical subsets and models. The study found that 85 percent of the cases were positive and just 5 percent were negative with most of these coming from young women aged 15 to 24.

“We do know young people can be exposed to harmful content on these [social media] platforms which may give more negative associations with internet use.” Dr Ruth Plackett, senior research fellow at University College London told the BBC.

But overall, the researchers  found that people who had internet access or actively used the internet self-reported greater life satisfaction and social wellbeing.

So keep scrolling or moderate internet use?
Since the internet is used for so many things like online banking, shopping, and as a source of news, the answer is not that clearcut, reported CNN. So much of life has moved online that it is difficult to function without it.

On the other hand things like online bullying and preying on young people is also a part of the seamy side of online uses. But before laws are enacted to limit  internet use, much more research is needed to explore potential harms and benefits, Vuorre told CNN.

“Although prominent narratives and the cautionary principle might suggest draconian limitations to technology use, ours and many other findings provide a much more nuanced and mixed view,” he added.

The best advice that experts can give is to be mindful about your own internet experiences. If an activity makes you feel bad, stop looking at it, and move onto something else that makes you feel positive about yourself. Take the best that the internet has to offer and leave the rest behind.

How to Optimize Your Digital Diet
Keeping Teens Safe on Social Media
5 Hacks for Cyberspace Expression and Self-Esteem