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A groundbreaking study involving over 2 million individuals across 168 countries reveals that internet use generally boosts wellbeing. However, young women aged 15-24 are an exception, showing negative effects likely due to social media pressures, say Andrew Przybylski Professor at the University of Oxford and Matti Vuorre of Tilburg University – head researchers of this investigation. 

The research, spanning 15 years, indicates that internet users report 8% higher life satisfaction. Using data from the Gallup World Poll, the study found that 84.9% of statistical models showed a positive correlation between internet use and higher satisfaction across eight well-being indicators, including life satisfaction, social relationships, and daily motivation. However, 4.9% of the models indicated negative associations, predominantly among young women aged 15-24 years.

Why is this important:

While acknowledging the internet’s positive impact, revealing that global trends and consequences shows that some groups, like young women, are more vulnerable to having a negative experience online.

Impact on young women

Young women aged 15-24 reported lower contentment levels than their peers. These findings are linked to issues like cyberbullying and the pressures of social media. According to a report published by Spain’s Observatory of Technology and Society (ONTSI), 11.3% of young internet users in this age group are at high risk of compulsive digital service use. Experts suggest that this demographic faces unique challenges exacerbated by the unrealistic standards often presented online. The omnipresence of these standards in the form of edited media or AI-generated content further complicates the digital landscape for young women especially. These issues not only affect their mental health but may also skew their perceptions of reality.

AI presence in social media

AI-generated models like Emily Pellegrini, Aitana Lopez, or Miquela, who has amassed over 3 million Instagram followers, exemplify literally unrealistic representations of women online. Their immersion and assimilation into our realities have become extremely smooth, with some people not even realizing that these models are not real. At this point, we have even reached the point of having a ‘Miss AI’ pageant, organized by Fanvue, evaluating the virtual personas on beauty, technology used, and social engagement.

Researchers and experts advocate for a balanced approach to internet use, emphasizing mental health support and measures against cyberbullying. As internet use continues to rise and increasingly encompasses more age groups, addressing these negative impacts and fostering a safer online environment remains crucial.